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High Court orders closure of Seamus O’Connell’s Cork restaurant

The owner of the high-profile Ivory Tower had been ignoring a closure order from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland – so the authority took him to court today.

Updated 16.01

THE HIGH COURT has ordered that the Ivory Tower restaurant in Cork be shut immediately. The owner and head chef at the restaurant Seamus O’Connell and his staff had continued to operate a dinner service at the restaurant despite being served with a closure order by the Food Safety Authority at the start of the month.

TheJournal.ie revealed on Wednesday that Seamus O’Connell had received the order to close his restaurant on the city’s Princes Street from the FSAI. The restaurant has been hailed as a foodie destination by the likes of the New York Times and Frommer’s international guides since it opened in 1993. O’Connell himself has been a high-profile chef, presenting RTÉ’s Soulfood in 2004 and setting up the original menu for Jay Bourke’s Shebeen Chic venue in Dublin in 2008.

Katie Mythen, editor of The Cork News, contacted us today to report that O’Connell had been continuing to serve food in the restaurant, against the FSAI order. He told The Cork News: “I will stay here cooking until they chain me up and lock me away.”

Dr Bernard Hegarty of the FSAI told TheJournal.ie this week that any restaurant served with a closure order had to have problems that needed to be rectified before it is allowed to reopen. The FSAI states that a closure order is served when “there is or there is likely to be a grave and immediate danger to public health at/or in the food premises”.

However, O’Connell said that his restaurant “wouldn’t do anything to endanger the health of our customers” and said he would invite customers to inspect the kitchen if they wanted to. He also claimed that food safety inspectors arrived in the restaurant at the height of service. While he and his staff clean up after service, he said that during service “the kitchen is a warzone”.

Today, the FSAI brought an application to the High Court “following the owner’s refusal to comply with a closure order”. Mr Justice Kearns in the High Court ordered that the restaurant be shut with immediate effect and also ordered that O’Connell pay the costs of the FSAI’s application to court. However, O’Connell can apply to the court to reopen, should the issues the FSAI has with the premises be resolved.

Professor Alan Reilly, CEO of the FSAI, said this afternoon:

We are pleased that the High Court upheld the use of a closure order to enforce food legislation and protect public health. Most of the 50,000 food businesses operating in Ireland comply with food safety legislation and cooperate with the FSAI and the food safety inspectors. However, for the few who continue to ignore their legal responsibility to comply with food safety and hygiene regulations, this High Court decision should serve as a warning that non-compliance with enforcement orders will not be tolerated.

In his interview with The Cork News, O’Connell had described FSAI inspectors as “lowly civil servants… uneducated in the science of cooking”.

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