The Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), formerly Anglo Irish Bank, launched a formal application on Thursday to overturn the bankruptcy declaration made by Ireland's former richest man, Sean Quinn.

Quinn, 64, who developed a rural quarrying operation into a fortune of 4 billion euros (3.4 billion pounds) before investing massively in the now failed Anglo Irish, made the declaration in Northern Ireland earlier this month, taking advantage of Belfast's more lenient bankruptcy laws.

IBRC wants to claw back as much money as it can from Quinn and is arguing that the insolvency proceedings should be annulled as the centre of Quinn's main interest was not in Northern Ireland.

The low-key former tycoon lost control of his Quinn Group empire, which included one of the country's largest insurers, after IBRC said he owed it up to 2.9 billion euros.

After a lawyer for IBRC told a Belfast Court on Thursday that the case was a matter of considerable urgency, Mr Justice Deeny set up a two-day hearing of the case for December 19 and 20 during a brief hearing.

Quinn, who is still regarded as a local hero for creating thousands of jobs in his home county of Cavan where locals have held rallies in recent months to show their support, may be called to give evidence during the hearing.

IBRC obtained a judgement against Quinn in the Dublin courts on Wednesday to repay some 416 million euros and is seeking judgement over a further 1.6 billion, the Belfast hearing was told.

Quinn, who declared to the Northern Irish authorities his assets were now only 11,169 euros and an aged Mercedes car, disputes the amount owed and claims it is nothing like as much.

If IBRC fail to overturn the declaration, Quinn can, under United Kingdom laws which apply in Belfast, be back in business a year after declaring himself bankrupt, where it can take 12 years to emerge from bankruptcy in the Republic of Ireland.

(Reporting by Ian Graham; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter and Padraic Halpin)