High Court finds solicitor O’Donnell and wife bankrupt

Bank of Ireland sought order after couple failed to satisfy judgment for €71.57m

Solicitor Brian O'Donnell and his wife Dr Mary Patricia O'Donnell have been adjudicated bankrupt by the High Court.

Bank of Ireland had applied to have the couple declared bankrupt after they failed to satisfy a judgment for €71.57 million obtained against them.

The judgment was obtained by BoI in December 2011 after they failed to repay loans advanced by the bank.

The O'Donnells, who had extensive property interests in Ireland and overseas, opposed BoI's application on grounds including Ireland is not their main centre of interest.


In his ruling this morning, Mr Justice Peter Charleton adjudicated the O'Donnells as bankrupt after finding their centre of main interest is Ireland and not England, as they had claimed.

The judge said from the evidence it was “impossible not to find” the O’Donnells’ main centre of interest “was in Ireland”.

The couple, who were legally represented, were not present in court for the ruling.

In March 2012 the couple applied to the English courts to be adjudicated as bankrupts. They applied to the courts in that jurisdiction on the grounds their centre of main interest was England, where they have resided since late 2011 and where they had property interests.

BoI opposed the O’Donnells’ application to the English courts, and initiated proceedings to have the couple adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland. Bankruptcy petitions were previously presented by BoI in respect of Brian O’Donnell on June 1st, 2012, and his wife on June 7th, 2012.

Those proceedings were adjourned from time to time to allow the UK proceedings run their course. Late last year the English High Court dismissed the O'Donnells' application to be declared bankrupt in that jurisdiction. That decision was upheld on subsequent appeals.

Last July when the BoI's application opened before Mr Justice Charleton, Mark Sanfey SC for the bank said the English courts had "definitively held" the O'Donnells' centre of main interest "is Ireland, and not the UK".

The O’Donnells, in arguing the centre of main interest was the UK, further argued they were not properly served with the petitions, and that the petitions are technically flawed and should have been dismissed.

BoI rejected the O’Donnells’ claims the petitions were not properly served or are technically flawed. BoI said even if the court were to hold the petitions were flawed, any such defects were not fatal to the application to have the O’Donnells adjudicated as bankrupt.

In a detailed judgment, Mr Justice Charleton dismissed the O’Donnells’ arguments and said said they must be declared bankrupt.

He adjourned making a formal order declaring the couple bankrupt to next week to allow the parties to consider his judgment.