Gorse Hill: Day of drama sees O’Donnell make last-ditch bid to appeal vacation order

‘You and your wife have to be out of the property by 5 o’clock tomorrow,’ judge says

The day began badly for Brian O’Donnell.

He arrived at the Four Courts on a slate-grey, rain-sodden morning.

Inside Court No 1 of the High Court, the solicitor – who once controlled a €1 billion property empire – was told he was now trespassing on what was once the family home.

“You and your wife have to be out of the property by 5 o’clock tomorrow,” Mr Justice Brian McGovern told O’Donnell.


If he failed to leave by then, it was a matter for the bank-appointed receiver, the judge added.

O’Donnell, who once had made partner with corporate law firm William Fry, sat alone. He scribbled some notes on a jotter.

None of his other family members were present in the crowded courtroom.

Some things in the case weren’t in dispute, the judge continued, as he read through his 11-page judgment.

The O’Donnells didn’t own Gorse Hill. It was owned by a company, Vico Ltd.

The O’Donnells live in Britain and they have been residing there for some time.

It appeared, he said, they only returned in order to frustrate attempts by Bank of Ireland to take possession of the property.

O’Donnell continued to take notes, his head bowed.

‘Tactical manoeuvre’

The judge, therefore, was happy to issue a trespass order against the O’Donnells over what the bank claimed was a “tactical manoeuvre” to frustrate efforts to take possession of the house.

Jerry Beades and other members of the New Land League who have been supporting O'Donnell were in the public gallery to hear the judge criticise the "factually and legally incorrect statements" made to media by "third parties" over recent times.

O’Donnell rose and spoke quietly but confidently.He asked for a stay of six months, given that it was a family residence and to allow time to prepare paperwork.

There were sniggers around the courtroom.

The judge laboured the point – that no one could be on the property after 5pm – like a teacher upbraiding a recalcitrant pupil.

“I’m giving you this much time to get your possessions together , but given you actually live in the UK, you probably don’t have many,” the judge added.

This then, was it.

After a long and winding road of appeals, allegations of conflicts of interests on the part of judges and numerous court appearances by his children, it seemed O’Donnell had finally run out of road.

Not quite finished

Except O’Donnell wasn’t quite finished. A few hours later, the drama moved down the quays to Parkgate Street, where he sought to make a last-ditch bid to appeal the ruling.

In a mostly empty courts complex, the three-judge Court of Appeal sat to listen to O’Donnell introduce himself and explain the background to the case.

The judges chuckled.

“It would be unreal for us to pretend that we don’t know about this case . . . even if we are judges,” Mr Justice Sean Ryan said.

O’Donnell argued that he needed more time to be able to lodge an appeal, as was his legal right.

The judges spoke among themselves briefly. There was time for a brief hearing at 10am the following morning, they agreed.

“In the meantime, do we continue to pack up?” O’Donnell asked.

“Fairness dictates that we have to hear from both sides,” Mr Justice Sean Ryan replied.

O’Donnell, against all odds, had managed to secure yet another reprieve, but for how long?

Outside, the rain stopped briefly. O’Donnell left the court, still looking confident, if jaded.

He posed briefly for the cameras and then left without comment.

The Land League men were left to speak to the media, while observers wondered what more twists and turns could possibly occur between now and 5pm today.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent