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Solicitor must pay for brother who 'embezzled' €1.5m

THE Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has secured judgment for €1.55m against a Dublin solicitor whose brother "effectively embezzled" money bequeathed to the church for charitable purposes.

While Cormac O Ceallaigh was innocent of the wrongdoing committed by his brother Ruairi and had apologised for his brother's actions, the fact both were partners in the firm Sean O Ceallaigh & Co Solicitors, meant Cormac had a liability for the €1.5m "effectively embezzled" by Ruairi, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said yesterday.

Dr Martin had sued Cormac O Ceallaigh, Ballyteige House, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, and Ruairi O Ceallaigh, Grand Canal Street, Dublin -- formerly practising as Sean O Ceallaigh & Co Solicitors, Phibsboro, Dublin -- arising from the misappropriation. The judge last month granted judgment for €1.5m to Dr Martin on consent against Ruairi who admitted and apologised for his actions in a case which, the judge remarked, involved "unalloyed dishonesty of an unattractive type".

The proceedings against Cormac were adjourned to allow him apply for an indemnity from the Solicitors Mutual Defence Fund (SMDF).

Yesterday, the court heard the SMDF notified Cormac last Friday no indemnity would be provided but he wants to seek arbitration of that refusal.

Suzanne Boylan, for Cormac, said that while her client had no defence to the €1.5m judgment order, she was seeking a stay to allow him to pursue arbitration which could perhaps yield more for Dr Martin than the maximum €700,000 available under the Solicitors Compensation Fund. Declan McGrath, for Dr Martin, said he had no instructions about a stay as he had not anticipated such an application.

Mr Justice Kelly said he would grant a stay of four weeks on execution and registration of judgment to allow for arbitration.

The O Ceallaigh firm had paid Dr Martin some €155,000 from the estate of the late Donal O Suilleabhain, Our Lady's Manor, Bulloch Harbour, Dalkey, but Dr Martin only realised a further €1.5m was due to the church after media reports last August of Law Society proceedings against the firm, the court previously heard.

The €1.5m was misappropriated by Ruairi and used by him towards buying and refurbishing properties at Grand Canal Street and Cabra Park, Dublin.

hnews@herald.ie