McFeely plays British card in failed UK bankruptcy defence


THE PROPERTY developer and former IRA hunger-striker Tom McFeely has said a legal challenge to his UK bankruptcy breached his rights as a British citizen.

However, Ms Justice Sonia Proudman yesterday overturned the bankruptcy order issued last January as she questioned Mr McFeely’s right to “forum shop” to decide where best to go bankrupt. The application will be reheard.

The challenge had been taken by Dublin woman Theresa McGuinness, who bought a house from one of his companies in 2006 which was later found to be so badly built that it needed €100,000 worth of repairs.

Finding against Mr McFeely, the judge said he had supplied wrong information to the registrar, who had accepted his bankruptcy application when he declared that he was not involved in legal actions in any other jurisdiction.

In a witness statement to the High Court in London, the Derry-born builder, who built the controversial Priory Hall flats in Dublin, complained that Ms McGuinness’s application was “vindictive” and designed “to place me in greater difficulties”.

“As a British citizen I have always objected to being forced into bankruptcy in a foreign jurisdiction purely on the basis that I have a judgment liability in that state,” he said.

Mr McFeely, who served 12 years in the Maze Prison for shooting an RUC officer in Derry, spent 53 days without food in the 1980 hunger strikes, which was eventually called off by IRA leaders. In 1974 he escaped from Portlaoise Prison.

Urging the judge not to overturn the bankruptcy, he said: “I am not a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. My wife is an American citizen. I have five children, three of whom reside in Northern Ireland and two in Dublin.”

The Irish bankruptcy law, he said was “punitive by nature. Until recently, it was not possible to obtain a discharge often for life. This is the reason I fought the bankruptcy proceedings in Ireland.”

Ms McGuinness, he said, had not challenged the bankruptcy of his business partner, Larry O’Mahoney, who has separately petitioned for bankruptcy in Macclesfield in Cheshire, even though he is an Irish citizen. That failure was “evidence that her actions against me are vindictive”.

“I maintain this is a breach of my human rights and that it is objectionable to expose me as a British citizen to the punitive bankruptcy laws of another country.”