Strokestown eviction: Two men released from prison

Michael Anthony McGann and Kevin Taylor were among three arrested at house last year

Damage to the house outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon, in 2018. Photograph: Peter Murtagh

Damage to the house outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon, in 2018. Photograph: Peter Murtagh

 

Two men jailed over their interference with a bank’s lawful takeover of a Co Roscommon farm at the heart of a controversial eviction in 2018 have been released after some five months in custody.

Michael Anthony McGann, who owned the property at Falsk, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, and Kevin Taylor, a retired garda of Dublin Road, Longford, were among three men arrested at the house last year for interference with efforts by KBC Bank’s agents to secure the property following the eviction.

They were found in contempt by the court and lodged in Mountjoy Prison, where they spent almost five months behind bars.

On Friday, Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds directed they should be released from custody after they gave undertakings to stay away from the property.

A third man, Colm Granahan from Ballina in Mayo, had also been jailed for contempt but he was released just before Christmas after purging his contempt.

On Thursday, Mr Taylor and Mr McGann, represented by Brendan Donelon BL, sought their release. The matter was adjourned to Friday to allow them fully consult with the legal team.

On Friday, counsel said both were prepared to give undertakings to stay away from the property. They said they were giving the undertakings independent of the injunction order requiring Mr Gann and others to vacate the farm.

Counsel said his clients want the High Court to hear further proceedings regarding the farm as soon as possible.

Rossan Fanning SC, for KBC, said it was satisfied with the undertakings.

No option

Ms Justice Reynolds directed the men be released but warned any breach of the undertaking would see them back in prison.

The court had not wanted to jail them but was left with no option due to the failure to comply with court orders, she said.

The judge made a cost order against Mr McGann, who she described as the “puppet master” regarding events, and refused to put a stay on the costs order.

The costs of the proceedings are estimated to be well into six figures.

The matter has a long history and had been before the courts on several occasions arising out of Mr McGann’s actions and failure to comply with the court’s orders.

No order for costs was made against Mr Taylor but that could be revisited if he were to breach his undertakings, the court indicated.

The farm, owned by Mr McGann, was the scene of a controversial eviction in 2018. KBC bank obtained a repossession order, on foot of a €431,000 loan to Mr McGann, against the property.

KBC was unable to secure the property and returned to court and obtained injunction orders, which were to remain in place pending the full hearing of the dispute, from Mr Justice Senan Allen in October 2019, granting it vacant possession of the property.

KBC brought contempt proceedings against the three men over their refusal to comply with that order. The court heard on Friday Mr McGann wanted the full hearing of KBC’s action heard, and the court agreed to put a timetable for the exchange of documents in that case.

Mr Donelon said his client was anxious for the full hearing of the case to proceed. Mr Fanning said that, although he accepted there was an entitlement to a full hearing and his side would comply with any directions made by the court, it was “an open-and-shut case”. The matter will be listed before the court in June.