More than 30 farmers from the midlands have brought High Court proceedings alleging a golf club is interfering with their long-standing grazing rights on commonage in Co Laois.
The farmers, who live on lands known as the Great Heath near Portlaoise where they have grazed animals for many years, have taken the action against the Heath Golf Club, Portlaoise; the Minister for Finance and the Office of Public Works, which manages the land. The defendants deny the claims.
The farmers, who mainly graze sheep on the heath, are seeking a declaration that they are entitled to graze animals over the heath and they also want an injunction preventing the club from interfering with that right.
They want to restrain the golf club from carrying on any business beyond the area of land leased to them by the State in September 1971. They say the State should ensure that the club complies with the terms of that lease.
The farmers want the court to grant additional orders preventing the club from carrying out activities which, they contend, interfere with the rights of common
pasture, including planting trees, enclosing parts of the heath for a driving range or mowing the grass to an excessively low length.
They say the club also should not be engaging in the daily collection of animal droppings from the course as this deprives the grass of its natural nourishment, nor should it be removing sods of turf from the heath to repair greens or extending the course beyond 18 holes. The club should also be restrained from using tractors and quadbikes which had caused flooding, they say.
The farmers are also seeking to have taken down a number of structures allegedly built without planning permission. In addition, they want the club to reinstate grazing lands where three additional golf holes were constructed.
Cormac Ó Dulacháin SC, for the farmers, said in court yesterday it was his clients' contention that their rights had been infringed as the golf club has expanded.
The case, before Mr Justice Thomas Smyth, is expected to last several days.
© 2007 The Irish Times