AN elderly resident who lives near a property that has become known as ‘Covid party house’ described how a young woman outside the house was told to hush but responded by saying, “turn up the music”.
Sadie O’Mahony of Highfield West, near University College Cork, was giving evidence in the case against the landlord for being responsible for noise as a nuisance.
She said: “In the last couple of months we have had no sleep whatsoever. We have been in contact with Mr [Fachtna] O’Reilly over the years but in the last six to eight weeks it is gone really bad.”
She described having her granddaughter staying over last Friday night for the first time since the Covid restrictions lifted and said they were all still awake at 5am when her daughter had to be at work for 8am.
Ms O’Mahony described another incident where two young women were outside the party house. “One said, ‘we can do what we want’. The other said, ‘the residents would like to sleep. Turn up the music.’ And then it got even louder.”
On another occasion she heard a young man say through an open window after the gardaí had called to the house, “The shades are gone, we can do what we want.”
Going back to another incident during UCC’s rag week, Ms O’Mahony said that in the same house there was a party one night and the gardaí came out.
“We counted just over 100 people came out of the house,” she testified at Cork District Court.
Judge Olann Kelleher asked the witness if she had engaged with the landlord and she replied: “All he would say is, ‘blame UCC, blame the pubs’ … It is the same thing all the time, ‘They (students) have rights’. You’d have no business talking to Mr O’Reilly, it is just the same thing all the time.”
Eamon Murray, solicitor, said up to 90% of houses in the area were let to students and that Mr O’Reilly was the only one being blamed.
Ms O’Mahony said: “Mr O’Reilly’s house is the worst house over the years. I am not saying the others don’t give noise but his is the worst.’”
Mr Murray said Mr O’Reilly was a recently widowed 80-year-old and there was a protest by residents outside his house on Model Farm Road, Cork, with protestors wearing face masks and carrying placards.
Catherine Clancy, resident of Magazine Road and chairperson of the local residents association, said that since stage one of lockdown there were long queues of young people buying drink at their local store, effectively making the shop “no longer available” to residents.
Muiréad O’Callaghan of Connaught Avenue said a house four doors away from her home had become known as “party central”.
She said so many people come and go there that it was like a railway station.
She made a claim that in a phonecall 10 years ago to Mr O’Reilly, he made a comment about bringing a Nigerian family to a house he was letting.
Mr O’Reilly denied this, describing the claim as a total fallacy.
Ms O’Callaghan said: “He said, ‘UCC bring them in, I keep them. If you are not happy I have a family of Nigerians in the northside. I could put them in beside you’.”
Garda Peter O’Riordan, who is a community garda in the area, gave evidence of gardaí receiving a number of complaints of loud parties going on in each of the two houses.
Mr O’Reilly was not going to give evidence but decided to do so in what his solicitor Mr Murray described as a change of plans.
He said he had five houses rented to students near UCC.
Judge Kelleher asked the landlord if the residents had rights at all. Mr O’Reilly replied: “They have rights to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes. I am obliged to follow the law to make sure they get it.”
The judge asked him what he would do to address the concerns of residents with those making the noise in his properties. Mr O’Reilly said: “The offender can tell me to get lost. I have to deal with the person causing problems diplomatically, inform them of their obligations to neighbours.
“Most times they adhere to these. Sometimes they do not. If they do not there is a process I put in place to get rid of them.”
Mr McCoy, solicitor, put it to the landlord that despite the recent court case pending the noise and parties continued and Mr O’Reilly was doing nothing to stop it.
Mr O’Reilly replied: “You explain to me how I can stop that party.
“When they go into a house I tell them no parties. It is not a term of the lease but I tell them.”
Mr McCoy asked: “Why are the parties continuing?”
Mr O’Reilly replied: “Eight people in the house, they have mobile phones, they can fill the house in 10 minutes.”