Reen v Murphy

JudgeMs. Justice Dunne
Judgment Date18 October 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] IESC 67
Docket Number[Appeal No. 2008/338] [Appeal No. 2008/339]
CourtSupreme Court
Date18 October 2017

[2017] IESC 67


Dunne J.

Clarke C.J.

O'Donnell Donal J.

Dunne J.

[Appeal No. 2008/338]

[Appeal No. 2008]

[Appeal No. 2008/339]






Judicial review – Delay – Property – Applicant seeking judicial review – Whether the order of the High Court dismissing the proceedings was correctly made

Facts: The applicant, Mr Reen, over a number of years, was actively involved in running a public house, a family business. Mr Reen, his mother and his sister came to an arrangement whereby there was a deed of transfer of the folio comprising the public house in 1983 to Mr Reen but differences arose between Mr Reen and his late sister. They became involved in litigation in 1989 in respect of property comprised in Folio 260L of the Register of the County of Cork in which a declaration was made that Ms Reen was the full owner of those lands and Mr Reen was enjoined from claiming ownership of those lands or any part thereof and was also enjoined from interfering with the affairs of his late sister and particularly in relation to the contract for the letting of those lands. Subsequently, there was further litigation which resulted in the order of the Circuit Court in 1993 in which the deed of transfer in relation to Folio 7164 in respect of the public house was set aside, a decision which was upheld on appeal to the High Court. A major aspect of his sense of grievance related to his opinion that during the years at issue his late sister was suffering from alcohol dependency and was thus, in his view, not capable of dealing with her legal obligations particularly her obligations as the administrator of the estate of his late father and mother. Further, Mr Reen was critical of the role of the late Mr O'Connell both in his capacity as a solicitor and as the partner of the late Ms Reen. Mr Reen stated that for many years Mr O'Connell had suffered from dementia and that it was a major contributory factor to his abnormal and erroneous actions and behaviour. Mr Reen issued proceedings seeking leave to apply for judicial review. Mr Reen sought to quash an 1989 order of the Circuit Court, a further order of the Circuit Court made on the 7th July, 1993 and an order of the High Court on circuit on appeal from the Circuit Court order made on the 20th October, 1994, together with an order quashing the decision on the 28th July, 1993 made at the District Court Probate Registry by which letters of administration of the estate of Mrs Reen were granted to Ms Reen. Judicial review proceedings were commenced by Mr Reen on the 13th August, 2008 when his application for leave was granted by the High Court (McMahon J).

Held by the Supreme Court (Dunne J) that while Mr Reen had a deep-seated grievance, this did not mean that he was entitled to issue proceedings seeking leave to apply for judicial review so many years after the events complained of. Dunne J held that she could see no basis upon which the decision of the High Court could be demonstrated to have been in error. Having looked at the statement of grounds applying for judicial review in a broad sense, it appeared to her that many of the reliefs sought by Mr Reen were simply misconceived and even if the order dismissing his application for judicial review on the ground of delay had not been made, the reliefs sought in the proceedings were so misconceived that it was inevitable that the application for judicial review would have been unsuccessful in any event.

Dunne J held that the order of the High Court dismissing the proceedings was correctly made and that the appeal of Mr Reen should be dismissed.

Appeal dismissed.

Judgment of Ms. Justice Dunne delivered the 18th day of October, 2017

Judicial review proceedings were commenced by the appellant in this case (hereinafter referred to as Mr. Reen) on the 13th August, 2008 when an application for leave to apply by way of judicial review for a variety of reliefs against a number of parties was granted by the High Court (McMahon J.). Leave was granted to apply for judicial review for all the reliefs sought by Mr. Reen set out in his Statement to ground Application for Judicial Review and supported by an affidavit sworn by Mr. Reen on the 5th August, 2008.


The starting point in relation to these proceedings could be said to have been the death of Mr. Reen's father, Jeremiah Reen, on the 15th January, 1965. Mr. Reen's father was approximately sixty four years of age when he died and Mr. Reen was eleven years of age at that time. Mr. Reen senior was survived by his wife, Hannah Reen, Patrick Reen, the appellant in these proceedings and by a daughter, Catherine Reen. The death of Mr. Reen senior must have been a traumatic event for all concerned particularly bearing in mind that Mr. Reen was just eleven years of age at the time concerned. Letters of administration to the personal estate of Mr. Reen senior were granted to his widow on the 1st September, 1965.


Unfortunately, many years after the death of Mr. Reen senior, issues arose in relation to the ownership of Reen's Bar, Bearings Cross, Bearings, County Cork. Mr. Reen in his affidavit grounding the application for judicial review stated that following the death of his father in January 1965, that 'our livelihood was derived from a going concern that is a licensed premises with a sub-post office attached and two holdings of agricultural land'. Mr. Reen went on in his affidavit to state that his late sister used to work in the family pub business from time to time and that she also worked periodically as a teacher over the years. Mr. Reen said that his mother gave to his sister the purchase cost of a house in Ballincollig, County Cork in the year 1976 and that his sister lived in that house from then onwards and worked in the family pub on a part-time basis in order to repay her debt to her late mother. Various other matters in relation to Mr. Reen's sister are described in the affidavit but it is not necessary to set those out in detail here. Suffice it to say that Ms. Reen formed a personal relationship with Donal Brendan O'Connell, a solicitor, (the second named respondent) and they lived together for a number of years in Ballincollig, County Cork in Ms. Reen's home. Hannah Reen died on the 7th February, 1985 at the age of seventy nine. Catherine Reen died at the age of fifty three on the 27th February, 2004 and Mr. O'Connell who features in these proceedings died on the 6th March, 2008 and was seventy six when he died.


Mr. Reen has made various observations as to the mental capacity of his mother, his sister and Mr. O'Connell. In the case of his mother, he pointed out that at the time of her death, it was noted in her death certificate that she suffered from senile dementia and had done so for some four years prior to the date of her death. In the case of his sister, he observed that her death certificate stated that the cause of death was due to alcoholic related liver failure – 'longstanding and right basal pneumonia (two weeks)'. Finally, he observed that Mr. O'Connell was also stated on his death certificate to suffer from dementia. Subsequently in submissions, Mr. Reen pointed out that Mr. O'Connell had been a ward of court for a approximately four years prior to his death.


The essence of Mr. Reen's current complaints can be seen in further submissions of Mr. Reen furnished to this Court on the 19th May, 2017 in which he stated as follows:

'It was Mr. Colm Murphy business partner of Donal Brendan O'Connell who made my late sister's last will. (This is a conflict of interests as he was a business partner to her partner Donal Brendan O'Connell). In her will she left everything to her lifelong partner Mr. O'Connell, nothing to her only brother, the only member of her immediate family left. ... The family property was not her property to donate in her will and this has been under dispute since 1993 after the death of our late mother Hannah Reen.'


At various stages in the course of these proceedings, Mr. Reen has furnished written submissions in relation to this matter to the Court. In a letter of the 17th May, 2017, he pointed out that his late father had inherited the estate of his father who died in 1942 and that in turn his grandfather inherited his estate from Mr. Reen's great-grandfather, who founded the premises known as Reen's Public House, together with the two agricultural holdings mentioned previously in 1860. Thus as he sets out, the public house at the centre of these proceedings has been passed down from father to son for a number of generations. That came to an end in circumstances where ultimately the property was left to Mr. Reen's sister Catherine who then left the property by her will to Donal Brendan O'Connell. Thus, the question of inheritance is at the centre of these proceedings. Mr. Reen is strongly of the view that the property established by great grand father in 1860 should have been inherited by him in turn, like his father and grandfather.


Mr. Reen in the course of the various submissions before the Court has also referred to issues relating to the estates of other close relatives and has complaints to make in respect of those matters but those issues are not encompassed in these proceedings and for that reason I do not propose to refer to those again.

Other matters

Before looking at the proceedings before this Court in any detail it would be helpful to explain two further matters referred to by Mr. Reen in the course of his submissions and the papers herein. First, it appears that...

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1 cases
  • Kirby v DPP
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 29 January 2021
    ...of constitutional and legal principles by lower tribunals is strictly limited. In the recent Supreme Court decision in Reen v. Murphy [2017] IESC 67, Ms. Justice Dunne cited, with approval, the dicta of O'Hanlon J. in The State (Daly) v. Ruane. In her decision, the learned judge also made t......

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