‘We didn’t know we were so thick’



They say that, and yet:

Mr O’Donnell, a successful corporate lawyer, and Mary Pat, a psychiatrist, quietly and quickly built up an impressive property portfolio during the height of the boom. It was valued at €1.1bn and got the couple onto Ireland’s rich list.

Their portfolio stretched from Dublin to London, Stockholm and Washington. They owned a chalet in Courcheval, the upmarket French ski resort. They bought and restored Gortdrisagh House, a Victorian pile in Oughterard, Co Galway with its own private harbour.

And of course they also had Gorse Hill. The O’Donnells bought it in 1998 for €1.4m as their family home and later acquired a piece of land next door for €1.5m. The site was redeveloped into the home it is now. Valued at €30m in its heyday, it is now worth an estimated €7m.

When the credit crunch hit, the debt that fuelled their wealth stood at around €900m. The couple started selling off properties and restructuring debts. They agreed a settlement in March 2011 with Bank of Ireland, but nine months later the bank secured a judgement against them for €71.5m claiming they failed to honour repayments promised under the deal.

By then, Brian and Mary Pat O’Donnell had moved full-time to London and applied for bankruptcy there, hoping to walk clear of their debts after a year, under the UK’s more lenient system. But the judge didn’t believe their main centre of business was in the UK.

And yet:

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