Waterford man court ordered for 'taking advantage of vulnerable litigants'

Aodhan O'Faolain

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Aodhan O'Faolain

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Waterford man court ordered for 'taking advantage of vulnerable litigants'

Waterford man court ordered for 'taking advantage of vulnerable litigants'

A High Court judge has made an order preventing a 'business consultant' acting as a legal advisor in court cases because he is "taking advantage of vulnerable litigants." 

The order was made by Leonie Reynolds on Thursday in respect of Mr Eamon O'Neill, who the judge said is now barred from acting as what are known as a 'McKenzie friend'- who are persons who advise lay litigants participating in court proceedings.

The judge said that despite having no legal qualifications Mr O'Neill had purported to give bad legal advice to defendants who were in a dispute with a receiver over a commercial property in Waterford, who the court had made orders against. 

Previously the Judge had described a letter sent to various parties, including the Gardai, by Mr O'Neill as being "scurrilous" and contained averments about what had occurred when the matter was before the court that were simply not true.   

Last April Mr O'Neill apologised to the court for what was contained in the letter.

The Judge adjourned the case to Thursday when she directed Mr O'Neill to attend with a legal representative to answer what she said was his alleged contempt.

When the matter returned before the judge she said that Mr O'Neill had failed to attend. 

A new letter was handed into the court on Mr O'Neill's behalf stating why he could not attend court, which the Judge said she did not accept.

"He thinks he is above the law," the Judge said, adding that she was giving him one more chance and that he would have to appear before the court next Thursday.

The Judge said that when the matter returns before the court Mr O'Neill may apply to have the order barring him from advising litigants against him lifted. 

Ms Justice Reynolds made the order against Mr O'Neill in a case where the court had previously granted a fund appointed a receiver, Mr Ken Kennell, possession of a commercial property in Co Waterford.

The action was brought against Paddy Early, Killea, Dunmore East, Co Waterford  Paul Kearney Islandtarsney, Fenor, Co Waterford, who are the owners of the property.

During the proceedings, the court heard Mr O'Neill with an address at The Quays Waterford, had acted as a business consultant for the owners and, CMD Early Dunmore East Ltd.

That company had previously alleged had an agreement with the owners to occupy the premises. 

Mr Fennell, represented by Brian Conroy Bl,  sought vacant possession of the premises after it claimed it was unable to take charge or access the property, and that the defendants were trespassers.

After finding the defendants had no defence to the receivers claim the Judge granted the receiver an order for possession but put a stay on the order to allow the occupants time to find a new premises.

On Thursday the judge agreed to extend the stay to allow the company, which very recently obtained the services of a solicitor, bring a motion seeking to have the possession order set aside. 

The judge also directed Mr Early and Mr Kearney to swear an affidavit setting out what they had paid Mr O'Neill for his advice, which they agreed to do. 

In his action, Mr Fennell claimed that Mr Early and Mr Kearney were advanced some €2.29m by Ulster Bank in 2008, for which the property was put up as security. 

The loan fell into arrears in 2011 and Promontoria Aran Ltd acquired the loan in 2015. Mr Fennell was appointed as receiver over the property in 2016.