carlowmike wrote:Irish Times, 11th February 2011.
Lissadell owners to appeal the ruling of High Court.
THE OWNERS of Lissadell House in Sligo, who could face legal costs running into millions of euro, are hoping for an early hearing of their appeal to the Supreme Court. They are appealing the High Court’s rejection of their claim that no public rights of way exist across certain routes in the historic estate, it was stated yesterday.
Costs of the case, which could be as high as €6 million, were yesterday awarded to Sligo County Council against the owners, barristers Constance Cassidy and Edward Walsh.
The court was told the council had made several attempts in correspondence with the couple to resolve the litigation which, its barrister said, it could not afford.
Mr Justice Bryan McMahon has put a stay on the costs order on the basis that the couple’s lawyers will seek an expedited hearing of their appeal to the Supreme Court.
Brian Murray SC, for the couple, said although it was taking up to three years for the Supreme Court to hear appeals, he hoped this one could be heard within a year, not because the owners wanted it heard as soon as possible but also because it was a matter that related to rights of way “throughout the country generally”.
The couple had claimed four routes through the 410-acre estate were not subject to any public rights of way but the judge upheld the council’s arguments that they were. When the case came back before the judge yesterday, he awarded the council the full costs of the case.
Mr Murray sought a stay on the costs order but John Rogers SC, for the council, opposed a stay given the history of the case.
Counsel referred to correspondence between the parties last year in which the council sought a resolution of the matter to avoid high legal costs. This included a written offer from the council to the owners to settle on the basis of their acknowledgment that the “sea route” through the estate was a public right of way, counsel said.
The councillors themselves had also asked the manager to enter into discussions with the owners after the litigation started and this showed a willingness on the defendant’s side to try to resolve the case, counsel said.
The case had caused “enormous costs” for the council which provides public services with limited and diminishing resources, Mr Rogers said.
It had been highlighted to the owners, in the correspondence, that the council did not want litigation “and in effect could not afford it”. In the event of an appeal, the council would have to bear costs already incurred in defending this matter and of the counterclaim against the owners.
Mr Rogers said the judge should also take into account that the case had “ballooned” after assertions were made of some type of collusion or conspiracy between council officials and locals. The judge had found no substance to that claim, counsel said.
Mr Murray, for the owners, said his clients were of the view there were no rights of way and had exercised their constitutional right to litigate the matter.
Mr Justice McMahon said it was a very unusual case and on balance he would grant a stay on the basis that the owners would seek an expedited hearing from the Supreme Court.
I was there on Monday last - glorious day. It was great to be up in my home area (S Donegal/N Sligo). It is really strange to drive up through the last barrier (on final part of avenue up to house) and to be utterly and totally fenced in, with so many Private Property Keep Out signs. Just to let people know - if you do drive up this way towards the house, you have to keep going along the narrow laneway that has now been created and continue on out the other gate at the far side of the estate. No room to turn around.
It is very sad - and I do hope something happens to shift all this. I have been able to go up around this house all my life - would never have gone too near as it would have been intrusive. I think all locals would respect the privacy of the house at all times. Here's hoping for that shift - the whole area is, after all, such a magical place ... under bare Ben Bulben's head ...