herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

So long for now Brian, it's been an emotional and entertaining trip

This is a bittersweet column for me, as it is probably the last one that I will get to write about Brian O'Donnell for some time.

It's just over three years since I first wrote about the solicitor turned property tycoon, whose attempts to hold onto his family home, Gorse Hill, have provided so much entertainment for the Irish public, and so much work for the Irish courts.

In December 2011 O'Donnell went on The Marian Finucane Show to complain about how beastly Bank of Ireland had just served him with papers seeking the repayment of €71m, thereby ruining the family Christmas he was looking forward to in his seaside palace.

Exasperated at the inhumane treatment he was receiving, he raged about how a man of his stature couldn't sort this out with his peers.

"We haven't been able to meet with anyone senior in the bank," he said. "We've written to the chairman, we've written to the chief executive..."

indebted

After all, O'Donnell couldn't be expected to have to deal with regular bank staff, as everyone else who was indebted had to.

And if we had little sympathy for O'Donnell, the intervening years have done little to improve our opinion of him, as he fought tooth and nail to stop Bank of Ireland from repossessing the home which he had put up as a guarantee for his loans.

Last week, Brian pointed out that he has been to court 82 times, and lost on all 82 occasions. To the average person, this would be telling them something, but 82 rejections is not enough for the penny to drop for O'Donnell, who is now threatening to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). A move which, bizarrely, is to be encouraged.

It will, if nothing else, provide some diversion for the clerks in Strasbourg who sift through all applications to see if they merit a full hearing.

After all, amongst all the cases involving torture, unfair imprisonment and shocking abuse of basic human rights, who could fail to have their mood lifted by a poncey millionaire's pathetic fight to hold onto one of his trophy homes?

And as O'Donnell prepares his tragic case for the ECtHR, it is worth considering what will probably be his last act in this country for some time. Turning up to the Bank of Ireland AGM on the very day that he was forced to give up Gorse Hill, he made sure to get a front row seat and, just as chief executive Richie Boucher arrived, strode up and theatrically dropped the keys in front of him.

Just as memorable as O'Donnell showboating was the quizzical, befuddled look on Boucher's face, who seemed to be asking "what is going on here, and who is this man?", which is a question I'm happy to answer for Richie.

That was Brian O'Donnell, the most pathetically, relentlessly deluded man in Ireland.

For that very reason, of course, I suspect you haven't heard the last of him. And I look forward to picking up his story when the Strasbourg Court, just like all 82 courts before it, tells his to cop on and sod off.

But for the moment, at least, so long Brian O'Donnell. It's been emotional...

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