Farce and drama as Vincent Browne leads charge on O'Donnell bolthole
Solicitor Brian O'Donnell has left his Killiney home for a court appearance this morning after a day of drama and farce.
The couple had until 4pm yesterday to vacate the palatial house, but showed absolutely no signs of moving out last night despite a flurry of activity during the afternoon.
The family are "drained and battered" but have vowed to continue their legal fight, according to representatives.
A blockade of the house has been mounted by members of the New Land League who say they are acting on the invitation of the O'Donnells.
The O'Donnells refused to speak to media, despite an approach by broadcaster Vincent Browne when he brushed past members of the New Land League to walk up the driveway.
On Tuesday, the court rejected an application by the O'Donnell children for an injunction to stop the repossession of the Gorse Hill in Vico Road.
Following that, representatives of receivers pinned notice of trespass and to vacate on the gates of the property on Tuesday night.
At one point yesterday afternoon, the New Land League organisation announced that it would be withdrawing from the occupation, at the request of the couple. They then returned to their position at the house.
"They're pretty battered by the whole process," the group's spokesperson Jerry Beades said.
"They're no different than any hundreds of other families around the country facing the same situation.
"Physically to look at them, they're drained," he added.
Bank of Ireland are expected to return to the courts this morning to continue their battle to take possession of the house which has been the subject of lengthy and dramatic court proceedings.
The New Land League told reporters that the family had lodged an affidavit yesterday to the court requesting that the judge hearing the case 'recuse' himself from the case.
The group also said they have lodged a constitutional challenge aimed at preventing the repossession of homes around the country.
The family want to be allowed continue living in the mansion, despite owing €71.5m. Mr Beades said he didn't know if Mr or Mrs O'Donnell would appear in court this morning.
The farcical situation now sees the married couple inside the property surrounded by members of the New Land League, who are attempting to prevent anyone from entering the land. Just after midday yesterday, Mr Beades arrived to consult with the Brian and Pat O'Donnell.
TV3 broadcaster Vincent Browne then seized the opportunity to step across the open gate, outlining his intention of going up to the house to interview Mr O'Donnell.
As members of the organisation addressed reporters outside, alleging there was a "sinister side" to the "pursuit" of the O'Donnells, Browne walked past them and through the open gate.
The members of the New Land League accused Browne of trespassing, but the TV3 frontman replied: "This is bank property."
Browne then called on his fellow journalists to join him before calling them "wimps".
"You won't be allowed at the press conference," replied Mr Beades. Mr Browne replied: "I don't want to go to your press conference ...Goodbye Jerry."
Members of the media followed Mr Browne down the driveway and proceeded to the front door where he knocked. There was no answer apart from the sound of a dog barking and the twitch of movement from behind wooden shutters.
Photographers and cameramen from the media recorded the palatial surroundings of the home with extensive views over Killiney Bay and a private swimming pool.
Later, at a press conference in Buswells, the New Land League reiterated its belief that Mr Browne had "trespassed".
"Vincent Browne didn't help the situation today out at Gorse Hill," Mr Beades said.
"He trespassed on property, he barged in, he thought it was perfectly lawful to go walk around looking in windows. I thought it was in poor taste."
After the 4pm deadline passed yesterday, John Martin, another member of the New Land League, said that the couple were feeling "hemmed in" by the presence of the media.
"The family, at this stage, felt enclosed the way they are ... barricaded by the media," he said.
"We thought some relief was in order to be able to concentrate on what position they may be in tomorrow.
Asked if the O'Donnells would be attending court today, Mr Martin said: "I don't know."
Some members of the public took this opportunity, while he was speaking, to wander into the driveway.
As Mr Martin attempted to regain control of the situation, one man dressed with a brown trilby and matching overcoat, who would only identify himself as 'Nicholas' said: "The gate was open and I walked in."
John Martin whipped out his mobile: "You can speak to the guards when they come, my friend."
At the height of their property empire, the O'Donnells had interests in a number of London properties, as well as Stockholm and Washington DC.
However, the financial downturn seriously hit the value of these investments. Asked why the New Land League had involved itself in this case, Mr Beades said the reason for the group's "digging in at Gorse Hill" was because it had put "at centre stage" the issue of home repossessions in Ireland.