Authority of court at issue over alleged illegal occupation - judge

Garda chief asked to explain any issues over removal of Donegal council office occupants

A High Court judge has said he would like the Garda Commissioner or a representative to attend court on Friday to outline any difficulties there may be with sending gardaí to remove a group allegedly illegally occupying council offices in Donegal.

Mr Justice Tony O'Connor said he was requesting the commissioner, or a representative, to attend given evidence he had heard about the alleged illegal occupation of Donegal Co Council's water testing laboratory offices in Letterkenny since November 18th.

Authority of court

The rule of law and authority of the court was at issue and those involved were refusing to leave the premises despite a court order in place since November 24th, the judge said.

There was also a public health issue because the council’s chief officer for water testing in the county had his offices there, he said.

The occupiers were “acting in total disregard” for a situation where, if there was an emergency with water in Donegal, the chief officer would not be able to get into his office.

He was “not directing the commissioner or a representative to be here but I would like it so”, he said.

Legal notices

The occupation arose after a group of people stormed the Kube building in Letterkenny and told council staff, housed on the second floor, to leave, showing what they claimed to be legal notices.

Among them was local businessman Brendan Gildea, who had leased out the building before it was taken over by a receiver appointed by Danske Bank which was owed millions by Mr Gildea's company.

Mr Gildea, it is alleged, demanded the council sign a new lease with him before the occupation would end.

The court heard on Thursday that a co-defendant of Mr Gildea, Noel Devine, whom the judge previously ordered should be brought before the court for alleged contempt, had not been located despite the best efforts of local gardaí.