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‘Coffee morning’ to repay debt

A CIRCUIT Court Judge has encouraged a County Tipperary man to organise a coffee morning with his neighbours in order to help repay a €63,360 debt from an unsuccessful court action taken to prevent a Traveller family from moving into the Cullenagh estate in Ballina.

Brendan Maguire and four others, supported by 61 members of the Cullenagh Residents Association, took a High Court action against North Tipperary County Council to block a Traveller family moving into a €465,000 council house in the estate.

They were unsuccessful in a judicial review action which was determined in May 2009.
As a result of this action, Traveller couple, Charlie and Noreen O’Reilly of Cullenagh faced a legal bill connected with this action. An order for repayment of €63,360 associated with the O’Reilly’s costs was made against Brendan Maguire of Ivy Grove, Cullenagh, Ballina, County Tipperary.

Mr Maguire was ordered to repay €40 per month to the Traveller couple but at Ennis Circuit Court on Tuesday the O’Reillys appealed this instalment seeking an increase in the amount repayable per month.

At the sitting Mr Maguire, who was representing himself, said he and the Cullenagh Residents Association took their action against North Tipperary County Council and not against the O’Reillys, who were represented by David McHugh, BL.

“We had to pay for ourselves and the county council. We weren’t aware it would bring in others, namely Mr McHugh’s clients,” Mr Maguire said

The court heard that others named and attached to the civil action were also repaying varying amounts in instalments to the O’Reillys arising from costs associated with the action, some for as little as €10 per month, but one was paying as much as €300 per month.

Mr Maguire, who is now self employed, said he was not in a position to pay any more than €40 per month and said he said he felt he would struggle to pay it when it was originally imposed.

Judge Gerald Keys highlighted that each of those involved in the action against North Tipperary County Council were also debtors jointly in respect of the €63,360.

“They left you with a €63,000 debt,” he said, adding, “I think you are capable of paying more than €40 per week.”

Mr Maguire said he could not afford this amount and was going to have to cancel his medical insurance because he couldn’t afford to pay it.

He highlighted that his mortgage was costing €1,800 per month and although he was trying to restructure this it wasn’t working out.

Judge Keys advised Mr Maguire that he had a recourse against the others who jointly took the action with him. Mr Maguire said “but that involves going through the courts”.

“You are being brought to the courts because the others would not go with you…You can’t leave the O’Reilly’s with a bill of €63,000 as a result of an action you brought,” Judge Keys responded.

Mr Maguire said his neighbours who went into the action with him were “mainly elderly people that can’t help out”.

Judge Keys said “it’s very difficult on you to have to come to court to pay this bill when it is their bill as well”.

He added that he felt Mr Maguire could pay more than €40 per month and ordered the instalment repayments be increased to €70 per month on a trial period until next Easter.
Mr Maguire said he was worried he could not pay that amount, and Judge Keys said if he applied himself he could.

“Ask them [the neighbours] to pay some of it, they can’t walk away. You all take on the consequences of winning or losing in a civil action, even if it was €4 or €5 that would help make it up. They should not have a complaint about that and if you run into difficulties tell them you put yourself in the firing line. It is grossly unfair on you to bear it all and on the O’Reilly’s to be saddled with that. I’m sympathetic to your situation. I do believe that people who are indemnified should not get to walk away without taking some of it on,” Judge Keys said.

Mr Maguire responded, “this is very stressful”.

Judge Keys commented, “People who get into groups like this, they usually organise something to make the money back, even if it was a coffee morning. It is grossly unfair on the O’Reilly’s and on you to have to take on the €63,000. You should follow them [through the courts]. Why take the burden on for all the others. Your friends and neighbours are not being very realistic to you”.

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