Is the Legal System Contributing to the Housing Crisis?

By Patrick Brogan



The legal system in Ireland can be a mysterious beast to outsiders and sometimes can be the focus of anger from those that feel they are the victims of what they perceive is a cold and inhumane system. Are the courts conspiring with the banks to help them make more money?

Jerry Beades certainly thinks so. Who? Before we get into that, he raises a serious issue when it comes to the High Court and its president, Judge Peter Kelly. Beades held-up, albeit temporarily, Kelly’s appointment as President to the High Court two years ago. We’ll get into that a bit more further on. Mr Beades has a history of challenging the courts.

Jerry Beades, as a member of the New Land League, has fought against rulings where the courts found in favour of the banks in repossession cases. Many of these cases resulted in people becoming homeless. And like the original Land League,  founded in the 19th Century to help those poor evicted farmers at the hands of cruel landlords, the updated version was going to defend those that were left out on the streets at the hands of the banks. In theory, anyway.

The New Land League was at the centre of a cause célèbre in 2015; the bankruptcy of Brian O’ Donnell. The solicitor is not exactly in the same boat as the tenant farmers in the previous century. He and his family ran up debts into the tens of millions and the court ordered their home in one of Dublin’s most affluent areas, Vico Road in Killiney, to be repossessed. This led to a now infamous interaction with TV3‘s Vincent Browne and then he later got a bollocking from the same man on his show for being a fraud;



Beades himself was a developer and is a member of the “Drumcondra mafia”, Bertie Ahern’s inner circle. He was also a former Fianna Fáil National Executive member and he was no stranger to clashes with the top brass about the direction of the party.

The issue that the self-described “most experienced lay litigant in the country” has with Judge Peter Kelly is that he is biased in favour of the banks as reported by The Phoenix. And an important thing to note is that Kelly is a shareholder in Bank of Ireland. Surely this a conflict of interest? According to Appeal Courts, it isn’t. The courts also dismissed Beades’ claims about the President of the High Court. Mr Justice Haughton described the case as “bound to fail; disclosing no reasonable cause of action; frivolous and vexatious and/or an abuse of process”, as reported by The Irish Times.

Is it logical to conclude the courts might be tempted to close ranks against somebody that is a persistent lay-litigant? Then, we must consider that those making the rulings against Beades might have their own vested interests similar to Kelly’s.


Repossessions; The Registrar and The Sheriff


Have a look at the video below. In it, Ben Gilroy is making the claim that a registrar can pass a judgement and the same person can then act as sheriff to fulfil the order. He claims these sheriffs are working off a commission, so surely it would make financial sense for the same person to pass as many of these orders as possible. Indeed, the registrar and the sheriff being the same person is backed up in this article by Friel Stafford; “Trade creditors can obtain judgment and use a sheriff to enforce. The execution procedure is carried out in Dublin and Cork by “private sector” Sheriffs and in other counties by County Registrars.” Does anyone else find this incredible?



The Positives


However, it is important to point out there are options when it comes to debt. This has become a widespread concern again in the media with the vultures circling around PTSB. Alan McGee wrote this insightful article about personal insolvency that is worth a read if you or anyone you know is seriously looking at this as an option.

The Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, has written and sought to bring in legislation that strengthens support services for those in mortgage arrears, as reported by In the past, Honohan has been critical of how the banks have treated those in distressed financial positions and continuous Governments that stood by and did nothing about it.

To answer; yes and no. There are many factors that have led up to this point and the biggest of these are economic and political. But, in some cases, the courts have certainly not helped and there is even evidence to suggest they are biased in favour of the banks. However, this is not to tarnish the entire legal system. We have given two examples of where the courts and individuals have tried to turn this housing crisis around. This is a deep societal issue and it is up to the entire body politic to address this. My personal feeling is; with Fine Gael in charge, this will not happen.


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