herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

Gerry O'Carroll: How can the New Land League be taken seriously after Gorse Hill?

Brian O'Donnell (left) and his son Blake arrive at the High Court in Dublin
Brian O'Donnell (left) and his son Blake arrive at the High Court in Dublin
Martin Foley
Mark English

Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Pat made a decision to put on hold their professional careers and concentrate their energies on land and property speculation.

When they did so, these two competent professionals (he's a solicitor and she's a psychiatrist) must surely have been well aware that they were embarking on a risky venture.

But they went ahead with it and it paid off - for a while at least.

Their business grew into a billion euro property empire. Brian and Mary Pat joined the ranks of the super-rich with all the trappings that status brings with it.

They moved into a magnificent mansion, Gorse Hill in Killiney, in one of the most elite addresses in the country.

At the height of the boom this property was worth more than €30m.

However, with the collapse of the banks and the property market in 2007, the O'Donnell business empire fell down around their ears.

For more than a decade they'd enjoyed the lavish and exclusive lifestyle of the super-rich. Now that dream is over.

The O'Donnells had gambled and lost and now the Bank of Ireland was granted repossession of Gorse Hill.

Last week the New Land League, led by Jerry Beades, mounted a protest at Gorse Hill to prevent the O'Donnells' eviction.

The founder of the original Land League, Michael Davitt, must be turning in his grave at this recent turn of events. After all, it's a long way from defending 19th Century tenant farmers in Co Mayo.

The subsequent actions of the New Land League outside the palatial mansion that is Gorse Hill were utterly ridiculous and became a circus.

More importantly, it distracted attention from the real crisis facing thousands of householders in mortgage arrears and facing repossession.

The banks are currently seeking to repossess more than 7,000 homes across the country.

With the rise in property values, the banks are hiking up the pressure in the courts. Last Friday, more than 200 cases for repossession were listed at Limerick Circuit Court alone.

Most homes that are the subject of such proceedings are modest family homes, not opulent €7m mansions like Gorse Hill.

The New Land League would be better off campaigning for these families and not fallen multi-millionaires like the O'Donnells.

On the other hand, maybe families are better off without those activists we saw engaging in the media circus in Killiney.

How can Beades and his ilk in the New Land League be taken seriously again when they describe a mansion like Gorse Hill as "bog standard"?

 

A word to the wise, Martin ... you're getting far too old for this carry on

I SEE my old nemesis The Viper is back in the news.

I honestly thought that Martin Foley (64) had hung up his boots and was enjoying retirement. After all, he will be collecting his pension and bus pass next year.

But no. Foley was arrested last week at a jewellery store in the Ilac Centre. True to form, he had to be wrestled to the ground before being handcuffed.

I first met Foley 40 years ago when I was a young garda in Dublin serving in the Crime Task Force. I arrested him and his accomplice one night in Merrion Square after a fierce struggle.

I was armed with a baton and he had a golf putter, which he used to smash all the windows of my patrol car. I was lucky my head didn't get in the way.

That was the first but certainly not my last encounter with him.

Over the next 20 years he ran with The General's gang. He was one of Martin Cahill's closest friends and was his right-hand man in some of the General's most audacious capers.

Over the years The Viper has amassed more than 40 convictions and gained a reputation among the criminal fraternity as a ruthless and dangerous man. This is a reputation well deserved.

Along the way he's survived no less than four assassination attempts, and bears the scars of a number of bullet wounds on his body.

I remember after one attempt on his life by the IRA doing protection duty at his bedside in the Adelaide Hospital.

You could say that over the years we got to know each other well.

So here's some advice, Martin, from me to you - quit while you're still ahead. Ride off into the sunset while you can.

Most of your buddies didn't make old bones - it's time for you at last to give up your auld sins.

Hero

It'S not every day that we get to celebrate the track achievements of Irish sporting men and women. That's why I want to congratulate Mark English, whose amazing European Indoor 800m performance last Sunday won a silver medal in Prague. It's our first medal at this event since 1979, so fair play to the Donegal man.

 

Zero

I was disgusted to read that a Drogheda printing firm, Beulah Print, refused to make invitations for the civil partnership ceremony of John Kierans and Jonathan Brennan (inset). The printers' attitude is offensive to many people, gay or straight. No faith-based reasoning can excuse it.

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