Supreme Court to decide on two-year Brawney eviction battle

Council legal costs now half the value of contested property

After four visits to the District Court, three to the High Court, and with legal bills approaching €75,000, Athlone Town Council will find out next Friday (October 15 ) in the Supreme Court whether its eviction of Christine Quinn (36 ), formerly of 27, Brawney Square, Athlone for anti-social behaviour, will be ultimately upheld.

Quinn was evicted from her local authority property on September 23, nearly two years after she allegedly painted a number of coffins in a Hallowe’en tableau at the house with her nicknames for neighbours she believed had complained to the authorities about her.

Council officers who asked her to take down the “inappropriate” and “sinister” decorations were verbally abused.

Quinn was given a notice to quit in October 2008, an ejection summons was formally issued against her in January 2009, and the council sought the District Court to impose this order on dates in April, July, and September last year. Judge John Neilan refused to do this for a number of reasons, namely that the alleged evidence of anti-social behaviour was only hearsay, and that there had been an outstanding appeal to the Supreme Court suggesting such an eviction may be contrary to Article 13 of the EU Declaration on Human Rights, (that it is contrary to the human rights of an EU citizen for a statutory authority to arbitrarily deprive said citizen of housing ).

“These people are terrified,” said the council representative in court in July 2009, referring to the other tenants on the estate.

“She told me she couldn't be touched by the courts, the Gardai, or the council.”

“Whilst these accusations are made, the presumption of innocence must lie with her. You may think this is unfair,” said Judge Neilan on that date.

Barrister for the council, Mark William Murphy told Judge Neilan that he didn’t have the discretion to do this and that the council would have to go to the High Court for a ruling.

The High Court found for the council because of Section 21 of the Housing and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1997, which allows a limited provision for third party evidence in the case of intimidation as a result of anti-social behaviour, and that the Article 13 appeal had survived two constitutional challenges since 1999, and an ongoing challenge did not constitute a precedent.

Quinn appealed this back to the High Court on July 8, and Justice Hedigan ruled on July 16, again in favour of the council. An issue to quit was served and the sheriff exercised this on September 23.

Quinn has now appealed this decision to the highest court in the land seeking damages, additional time to contest the eviction, and an order against the council to desist from pursing any further action against her. This is scheduled for October 15.

The property is now valued at between €140-160,000.

Quinn, who is separated and has two children, moved into the property in August 2004, and first complaints were received against her before that Christmas.

It is believed the ongoing problem of anti-social behaviour in this neighbourhood was one of the main reasons behind Westmeath County Council’s decision two years ago not to go ahead with its plans to double the size of the 160-unit estate.

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