SEAN DUNNE DENIES 'FALSE WALL' IN K CLUB HOUSE WHERE ART COULD BE STORED - Developer Seán Dunne has strongly disputed claims that there was a "secret panel" in a bookshelf wall of a K Club house where valuable artwork may have been stored before the property was searched by the official dealing with his bankruptcy, says the Irish Times. Mr Dunne insists there was no "false wall" in the Churchfield development house and contends the area in question, accessed from under the stairs, is a storage unit in which the sound system is located. He also denies being the owner of a safe found in an upstairs bedroom which contained what searchers believed may be the keys to another safe in the house. Mr Dunne, an adjudicated bankrupt both in Ireland and the US, is asking the High Court to set aside a warrant granted last November to the official in charge of his Irish bankruptcy, Chris Lehane, permitting a search of the house at the K Club, Straffan, Co Kildare. Various items, including artworks, were seized. The warrant was issued at a private High Court hearing at which only Mr Lehane was represented. Mr Dunne claims it is legally defective and based on hearsay evidence. He wants orders permitting Mr Lehane be cross-examined over the search warrant. Mr Dunne claims that would show Mr Lehane's claims are groundless. In an affidavit sworn in Paris last weekend, Mr Dunne denies claims by Mr Lehane that several pieces of artwork had already been removed from Churchfield and there were plans to transport more to the US.
TOP CIVIL SERVANT QUESTIONS OUR OBSESSION WITH HOME OWNERSHIP - One of the most powerful civil servants in the country has questioned whether Irish people should be aiming to own their homes, says the Irish Independent. The Department of Finance's senior civil servant, John Moran, called for a thorough debate on the future of housing in Ireland. Speaking at a property conference in Dublin, he said it was time for in-depth discussions on whether it was necessary for everyone to live in a "three-bedroom house" when more and more people were committing to renting long-term. "There may be a need to address fully the idea of everyone needing a three-bedroom house in Dublin and if that is the right way to go about planning long-term. "That could raise a scenario, which I wouldn't like to get into, of a Los Angeles-type sprawl of Dublin with three-bedroom houses all the way out to Kildare and surrounding counties while the city centre gets hollowed out again even as the overall population grows," he warned. While Mr Moran said he "didn't know the answer" to the question yet, it was something that would have to be dealt with as there were huge infrastructure projects such as Irish Water that depended on the Government successfully mapping out the future development of the capital for them to be successful.
TAXPAYER 'SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PAY COSTS' - IBRC has argued that the taxpayer should not have to pay the costs of Paddy McKillen’s legal action aimed at preventing his loans being sold by the IBRC special liquidators to the Barclay brothers, writes the Irish Examiner. Mr McKillen had brought High Court proceedings against both the special liquidators of the IBRC and David and Frederick Barclay, the billionaire brothers whom the property investor has been engaged in a long running battle with for control of the world-famous Claridge’s, Connaught and Berkeley hotels in London. However, the case did not proceed after the Belfast born developer successfully acquired the loans, worth an estimated hundreds of millions of euro, with the backing of private international investment firm, Colony Capital. Yesterday the matter returned before the High Court to deal with the issue of the legal costs of the case. Michael Cush, counsel for Mr McKillen, said that while his client believed that he would have succeeded at a full hearing of the case, the proceedings had been rendered moot by the fact that the loans had been acquired. Counsel said as a result, the court should not make any orders in respect of the legal costs as against the special liquidators of IBRC, who counsel added, “no wrong was ever alleged against” by Mr McKillen in his proceedings.
UK URGES EU TO CUT ENERGY RELIANCE ON RUSSIA - The British government is pushing EU leaders to back an energy security plan to wean Europe off Russian energy over the next 25 years by ramping up imports from new sources, including shale gas from the US and natural gas from Iraq, says the Financial Times. The proposal, distributed to European capitals before a summit in Brussels that begins on Thursday, calls for speeding up the development of a pipeline route through Azerbaijan and Turkey that would bring gas to Europe from the Caspian Sea, avoiding Russian territory. Crimean authorities, meanwhile, on Thursday released seven Ukrainians taken hostage in the region, including Sergey Haiduk, who had been detained by Crimean authorities on Wednesday during the takeover of the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol. The move followed an appeal by Sergey Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, made after he and Ihor Teniuk, Ukraine’s interim defence minister, discussed possible steps for a de-escalation of the crisis on the phone on Wednesday. The Russian defence ministry said the two ministers would continue working contacts.