Blaise O’Donnell tells bank’s legal team: ‘You watch yourself’

Dr Mary Pat O’Donnell says ‘harassment and devastation’ was visited upon them by Bank of Ireland and solicitors

Blaise O’Donnell and Dr Mary Patricia O’Donnell at the Four Courts yesterday. Photograph: Collins

Blaise O’Donnell and Dr Mary Patricia O’Donnell at the Four Courts yesterday. Photograph: Collins

 

The wife and daughter of retired solicitor Brian O’Donnell displayed their anger towards a bank’s legal team during the hearing of a challenge to the parents’ bankruptcy.

The High Court has reserved judgment on the challenge.

Dr Mary Pat O’Donnell, with anger in her voice, said “harassment and devastation” was visited upon them by Bank of Ireland and its solicitors, while her daughter Blaise pointed in the direction of two female members of the bank’s legal team and said: “You watch yourself.”

Their comments came at the close of Mr O’Donnell’s case seeking to annul the bankruptcy adjudication which the bank obtained against them in August 2013.

Ms Justice Caroline Costello asked Dr O’Donnell if she had anything to add to her husband’s submissions.

Dr O’Donnell rose from the back of the courtroom, where she was sitting beside Blaise, and said she agreed with everything her husband said.

“But I just want to add I do not think you (judge) have grasped how stressful the intimidation we have been under by Bank of Ireland and Arthur Cox (solicitors for the bank) was,” she said.

When the judge said she understood her argument, Dr O’Donnell said it was not an argument and, clearly angry, spoke of “stress and harassment and devastation visited on us and that is all I have to say”.

As Blaise O’Donnell went over to her mother, the daughter pointed in the direction of two women from Arthur Cox’s office and said: “You watch yourself.”

She then took her mother’s arm and both left the court which then rose for five minutes.

Earlier, in his submissions seeking to overturn their bankruptcy, Mr O’Donnell argued a €71.5 million judgment obtained against them by the bank, and which led to their bankruptcy, had been obtained by “deception”.

That “deception” involved not just officials of the bank but named staff of Arthur Cox and senior counsel who represented the bank at hearings which led to the judgment in the Commercial Court, he said.

He and his wife had been “bamboozled” into signing the agreement under which they consented to the €71.5 million judgment over a lunch hour in March 2011, he said. They were told “take it or leave it” at 1.05pm by Arthur Cox and there could be no changes and that the judge would be available to mark judgment against them at 2pm.

It was only late last year when going through documentation they “really twigged what happened here” and that it was an unlicensed bank (BOIPB) rather than BOI they had been dealing with all the time, he said.

Where “fraud” is involved, as is what occurred here, there is no time limit on litigation, he said. Bank of Ireland have never explained this position about BOIPB, he said. “It is the oldest con in the book and we fell for it.”

Mark Sanfey SC, for the bank, urged the court to refuse Mr O’Donnell’s application and to take into account the accusations of deception he had “bandied about” in relation to not just bank officials but all the lawyers involved. Those claims were made against reputable people “without the slightest shred of corroboration or any explanation”, counsel said.

Mr O’Donnell’s claims that he was bamboozled and that the judgment against him and his wife was obtained by fraudulent conduct were simply an attempt to get round “the fact that he is clearly prohibited by law” from overturning that judgment, counsel said.

Mr O’Donnell was “no ingenue” but an experienced commercial law practitioner. To suggest that he honestly believed it was BOIBP rather than BoI which loaned the money simply “stretches the matter beyond belief”, he said.

The claim that the O’Donnells were put under extraordinary pressure to sign the judgment agreement was not borne out by the facts, counsel said. They got a chance to consider it overnight and were under no more pressure than anyone in a similar situation, counsel added.

Ms Justice Costello has reserved judgment.