Cronin v Cowen; Cronin v Harris and Another; Cronin v Martin; Cronin v McEntee and Another

JudgeMs. Justice Siobhán Phelan
Judgment Date23 March 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] IEHC 190
Docket Number[Record No. 2020/4769P] [Record No. 2020/4770P] [Record No. 2020/5051P]
CourtHigh Court
John Cronin
Barry Cowen
John Cronin
Drew Harris & Another
John Cronin
Micheál Martin
John Cronin
Helen McEntee & Paul Gallagher

[2023] IEHC 190

[Record No. 2020/4769P]

[Record No. 2021/3684P]

[Record No. 2020/4770P]

[Record No. 2020/5051P]


Abuse of process – Frivolous and vexatious proceedings – Strike out – Defendants seeking to strike out the four separate sets of proceedings brought by the plaintiff against them – Whether the four separate sets of proceedings brought by the plaintiff against the defendants were frivolous and vexatious, showed no reasonable cause of action or were an abuse of process

Facts: The plaintiff, Mr Cronin, brought four separate sets of proceedings, bearing record numbers 2020 4769 P, 2021 3684 P, 2020 4770 P and 2020 5051 P, against different individuals arising from alleged failures in their discharge of duties in public office. The defendants, Mr Cowen (2020 4769 P), Mr Harris and another (2021 3684 P), Mr Martin (2020 4770 P), and Ms McEntee and Mr Gallagher (2020 5051 P), applied to the High Court seeking to strike out the four separate sets of proceedings brought by the plaintiff against them as frivolous and vexatious and/or as showing no reasonable cause of action and/or as being an abuse of process. An Isaac Wunder order was also sought.

Held by Phelan J that the claim relating to non-payment for dredging works which was at the heart of each of the proceedings was a private law claim in contract. Phelan J held that the plaintiff enjoyed no contractual nexus with any of the defendants in relation to the project at Dingle Pier. Phelan J held that the proceedings originally brought against Irishenco Construction Ltd (Irishenco), the party with whom a contractual relationship existed, stood struck out and could not be revisited in proceedings against strangers to the contract for the dredging work done. Phelan J held that the plaintiff did not have locus standi to maintain a claim personally which ought properly to have been pursued by the contracting company. Phelan J held that no proper legal or factual nexus had been demonstrated to warrant maintaining proceedings against any of the defendants with regard to the Dingle Pier project in tort or for breach of statutory duty. Phelan J was satisfied that the historic difficulties with Irishenco and issues in relation to payment for the Dingle Pier project were not properly actionable at the suit of the plaintiff in any of the four proceedings before her. Furthermore, Phelan J held that each of the proceedings issued more than six years after the conclusion of those works by the plaintiff’s company and any further claim was manifestly statute barred.

Phelan J was satisfied that the statements of claim in each of the four cases considered in their entirety and together and having regard to the affidavit evidence adduced by the parties were documents which disclosed no reasonable cause of action as against the defendants, were prolix, scandalous, vexatious and an abuse of the courts process. Accordingly, Phelan J directed that each of the claims be struck out. Phelan J held that the plaintiff’s claims against the defendants relating to the non-payment of dredging fees for the Dingle Pier project, the plaintiff’s committal to prison in 2013 and any assault whilst in prison in 2013 or any failure to properly investigate said matters, were determined by her orders striking out the proceedings unless set aside on appeal. Phelan J held that they should not be the subject of further litigation in proceedings involving the same parties. Phelan J was not disposed to making an Isaac Wunder order. However, Phelan J held that a failure on the part of the plaintiff to desist from revisiting those issues in future litigation may well justify the making of an Isaac Wunder order against him precluding further court action. Phelan J held that she would hear the parties further in relation to the form of any order and any consequential matters.

Applications granted.

JUDGMENT of Ms. Justice Siobhán Phelan, delivered on the 23 rd day of March, 2023


. This is my judgment on four related applications to strike out as frivolous and vexatious and/or as showing no reasonable cause of action and/or of being an abuse of process in respect of four separate sets of proceedings brought by the same Plaintiff against different individuals arising from alleged failures in their discharge of duties in public office. An Isaac Wunder Order is also sought.


. By way of general background, it appears that the Plaintiff's various difficulties originate in events which occurred in May, 1999 when a company controlled by the Plaintiff [hereinafter “ the Plaintiff's company”] was involved in a project at Dingle Pier as a subcontractor for Irishenco Construction Limited [hereinafter “ Irishenco”], a company which it is claimed is or was owned by one Mr. John Mowlem PLC in the UK. It forms part of the narrative background to these proceedings that Irishenco had successfully tendered for certain works at Dingle Pier, including dredging works.


. While the Plaintiff's company had been subcontracted to dredge 8,500 cubic metres, it is claimed that it in fact dredged some 14,500 cubic metres. A dispute followed in respect of payment for this additional work and the matter was litigated in proceedings between the Plaintiff's company and Irishenco. It appears that these proceedings were not progressed following the making of an order for security for costs against the Plaintiff's company and were ultimately struck out, seemingly on grounds of delay. It is understood from what was said during the course of the strike out application before me that the proceedings against Irishenco were struck out in or about 2014.


. Each of the four sets of proceedings before me commenced in 2020, when plenary summonses issued against various members of the Government and public bodies as appear in the title to this judgment. There is significant overlap between the four sets of proceedings but they are not identical. The Statements of Claim in each case are lengthy. I propose to refer primarily to the Statement of Claim in Cowen and to the others only to the extent necessary to broadly identify differences between the cases.


. It appears that the proceedings against Cowen issued against him because he was the then Minister for Agriculture and his Department was the Department involved in the Dingle Pier Project. The Cowen proceedings refer to multiple other State agents as well as private companies, solicitors and named persons who are not joined in the proceedings but are identified as persons who are involved in a cover-up, fraud and conspiracy to defraud the State and sub-contractors of hundreds of thousands of euros.


. The complaint at the heart of the proceedings appears to be that in breach of contract Irishenco did not pay the Plaintiff's company for the dredging work actually carried out despite itself being paid for in excess of amounts excavated by the Plaintiff's company. At paragraph 5 of the Statement of Claim in Cowen the Plaintiff pleads:

5. The Plaintiff and his brother were directors of J & J City Ltd…


. At paragraph 7, it is pleaded:

7. In 1998 J and J City Ltd quoted for subcontracting work in the Dingle Pier Extension to Irishenco Construction Limited…”.


. At paragraph 10 it is pleaded:

“10. The work was to dredge 8500m3 of rock initially but this was then increased to 12500m3.”


. At paragraph 18 it is pleaded:

“18. Irishenco Construction Ltd would not agree to the Plaintiffs payment valuation and insisted they had only taken out 8500 cubic metres. The Plaintiff was claiming 14500…”.


. Reference is made to Court proceedings against Irishenco at paragraph 26 of the Statement of Claim. The Plaintiff complains that he was advised to pursue arbitration but that the agreed arbitrator had a conflict of interest. At paragraph 31 it is pleaded that he was advised that he had no case by an arbitrator who had a conflict of interest. Dissatisfied with his legal representation, the Plaintiff changed solicitor.


. The Plaintiff further complains that Irishenco's name changed to John Mowlem Construction Limited despite entering into contracts and maintaining contracts as Irishenco. He complains that contracts continued to be offered to Irishenco even though the name had been changed and his complaints to the State through approaches to different Government departments were not acted upon. At paragraph 37–38 the Plaintiff pleads:

“37. The Plaintiff contacted the Minister of the Marine to help him but would not get involved. As the Dingle Bay project was paid for by the Department of the Marine with tax payer's money this situation greatly troubled the Plaintiff. It seemed the contractor, Mr Mowlem could do anything he wants.

38. The Plaintiff reported the situation to the Gardai and they took his statement and interviewed the Department of Marine official in Tralee. He had the chief state solicitor with him.”

He confirmed that he was happy with value of work paid for by the department of Marine that was signed off by him and his site engineer. The Gardai told the Plaintiff there was nothing they could do as the State won't sign a complaint against the state.”


. In the meantime, the Plaintiff claims that he himself registered the name Irishenco. At paragraphs 41–42 the Plaintiff pleads:

“41. The Plaintiff informed Mr John Mowlam that he would seek an injunction against them for using my company name all over Dublin. The Plaintiff had registered Irishenco Construction Ltd when he was told the contractor was still using this even though he officially his Company was now registered as...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT