‘Serious consequences’ if developer interferes with garage holding scorpions and alligators, judge warns

High Court proceedings relate to row over ownership of cottage in Portlaoise, Co Laois

A High Court judge has warned the owners of a development company that they face “serious consequences” if they breach undertakings not to interfere with a garage a couple use to keep exotic pets including scorpions and alligators.

The comments were made by Mr Justice David Nolan in proceedings taken by Alan O Neill, and his partner June Finnegan against Drumgoan Developments Limited, Noel Martin Senior and Darren Martin, who are alleged to be the firm’s owners and operators.

The couple claim the defendants have threatened and intimidated them in a row over the ownership of the garage adjacent to the couple’s home at Crann Nua, Edenderry Road, Portlaoise, Co Laois.

Last week the couple secured a temporary injunction restraining the defendants and their agents from directly communicating with them.


However when the matter returned before the court on Wednesday Ruaidhri Giblin BL, instructed by solicitor Paul Kelly, for the couple, said they welcomed the defendants’ undertakings not to interfere with the plaintiffs’ enjoyment and use of the garage.

However, counsel said, the injunction had been breached by Mr Martin Snr within hours of it being granted by the court.

Counsel said his client received a WhatsApp message from Mr Martin Snr stating that he would report the applicant to Tusla for having “dangerous unlicenced animals” and demanded that Mr O’Neill “remove his car” from what Mr Martin Snr said is his property.

Mr Martin sent the message after he was informed of the court’s order, counsel said.

Conor Feeney BL, for the defendants, said that while his clients dispute many of the allegations against them, they were prepared to offer various undertakings to the court.

Mr Justice Nolan said it was accepted that the ownership of the property is disputed and there are two sides to the story, but he was “not at all impressed” by the defendants’ conduct, which has been “egregious as far as I am concerned”.

The judge said that any breach of the undertakings or the injunction, which is to remain in place pending further court order, will have “serious consequences” for the defendants.

The judge said the defendants are not to contact or communicate with the plaintiffs or drive past their home.

The judge welcomed that the defendants have secured legal representation and urged the lawyers to convey the court’s remarks and explain the seriousness of any breaches to them.

He also said the defendants were “very lucky” the plaintiffs had opted not to pursue them over an alleged breach of an injunction preventing the Martins from directly contacting the couple.

Had the couple brought an application seeking Mr Martin Snr’s attachment and possible committal to prison for contempt, the judge said it would have been an “open door application” as far as the court was concerned.

The judge expressed his hope that the parties’ lawyers could come to an arrangement regarding the application for an injunction.

He adjourned the case for a week to allow such discussions to take place.

In their action, the couple claim the defendants have asserted ownership of the garage adjacent to the plaintiff’s home of 20 years.

It is claimed the defendants have threatened them, and damaged the disputed property with a JCB.

The couple claim they purchased their home and for an additional fee the garage in the Crann Nua estate, which was built by Drumgoan, in 2005.

Despite paying for it, the couple say the garage does not appear to have been properly conveyed to them, due to an oversight by their former solicitor.

The garage, they accept, is on land that since 2023 is registered to Drumgoan.

The couple were unaware of the issue until recent months but allege the defendants have engaged in a “land grab” and have made demands of them and their neighbours who also have garages in the estate for money.

The plaintiffs claim that on a date in February they heard “a loud hammering on the wall of the garage, and found two men smashing the walls of the garage with power tools.”

Another man arrived in a JCB and allegedly drove in through the garage wall, despite being informed that the plaintiff’s had pets in the garage.

The couple say they have used the garage to keep and breeding pets including various reptiles, including chameleons, scorpions, tarantulas and a female caiman alligator for 20 years.

They also claim that Mr Martin Snr has sent them threatening messages designed to intimidate his family into complying with the defendant’s scheme.