SEVENTY gardaí were involved in an early morning operation on Monday to secure a building in Letterkenny, allegedly illegally occupied since last month, the High Court has heard.
Gardaí only found three people inside the Kube building when they arrived at 5am but another 40 or 50 people later arrived and surrounded the building, Mr Justice Tony O’Connor was told.
The Irish Times has reported that the other people did not enter the building and the situation was quite tense for a few minutes but order eventually prevailed and the crowd dissipated, Anthony McBride BL told the judge.
Mr McBride was appearing before the court on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, following a request from the judge for him to be informed of any difficulties gardaí would have in executing orders directing the protesters inside the building to leave immediately.
The occupation began on November 18th when around 20 people stormed the building and told Donegal County Council staff – housed on the second floor – to leave before changing the locks.
Among them was local businessman Brendan Gildea, who had leased out the building before it was taken over by a receiver appointed by Danske Bank which was owed millions by Mr Gildea’s company, the court heard.
Mr Gildea, it is alleged, demanded the council sign a new lease with him before the occupation would end.
The receiver got High Court orders against Mr Gildea and Noel Devine – requiring them to leave immediately. The orders also applied to anyone else with knowledge of them.
Mr McBride said 70 gardaí, some from as far away as Roscommon, were deployed in the operation to secure possession of the building.
There were three people inside who, after the court order was read to them, left, counsel said.
Council staff, including its water testing service, who had been out of their offices since the occupation began, have returned.
Gardaí cannot be expected to remain on the premises but the local chief superintendent advised she was prepared to give advice and assistance to the receiver, Martin Ferris, to enable him secure it, Mr McBride said.
Mr McBride said significant public funds had been expended in this operation to secure a private premises.
Just as gardaí are reimbursed for providing security at public events such as concerts, the commissioner wished to apply to recover those costs from the receiver.
John Gleeson SC, with John Kennedy BL, for the receiver, said that application could be heard later this week when the court could be updated on efforts by gardaí to arrest Noel Devine for alleged contempt of the court orders.
Mr Devine was believed to be in Northern Ireland, the court heard.
Mr Gleeson said apart from damage to a window in the building, files and computers were dislodged and gardaí may have to treat this as criminal damage.
Mr Justice O’Connor welcomed that the building had been got back and the assurance gardaí would assist the receiver with advice in securing it from now on.
He will hear submissions on Friday on the commissioner’s bid to have the costs of the Garda operation paid by the receiver.
Posted: 9:53 am December 13, 2016