DUBLIN CITY Council is paying a private security firm €1,600- €1,700 a week to deter Athlone businessman Noel O’Gara from seeking parking fees from customers of a council-operated car park.
Mr O’Gara achieved notoriety four years ago when he claimed ownership of Dartmouth Square in Ranelagh, Dublin, from where he attempted to operate a tile showroom and car park. The square has since returned to public use.
He now claims he owns the car park on Terenure Road North close to a Health Service Executive (HSE) health centre. The HSE, which says it owns the site, is leasing it to the council for use as a car park. The council has been operating the car park since 1974.
Last month, Mr O’Gara put up signs and covered the pay and display ticket machines, telling locals he was the owner. He charged drivers €1 to park for three hours.
The HSE said it had “at all times” been owner and this has been “clearly communicated to Mr O’Gara through HSE’s solicitors”. However it would not say yesterday if it was taking legal action.
The council said it had obtained legal advice that it would not be granted an injunction to prohibit Mr O’Gara from being at the car park because it had the remedy of pursuing him in the courts.
The council said it may institute proceedings for damages to recover the sums taken by Mr O’Gara for parking, but it would take 18 months to two years before these proceedings would be heard.
Council law agent Terence O’Keeffe said the council was attempting to deal with Mr O’Gara’s presence in a “more practical manner” to “assert our authority on the ground”.
Security varied “dependent on the activities of Mr O’Gara”, the council said, but the cost to the council was approximately €1,600- €1,700 a week.
Mr O’Gara said he bought the title to the site 10 years ago from the estate of Sir Robert Shaw and was entitled to any royalties, including parking charges. The situation is similar to Mr O’Gara’s claim on Dartmouth Square.
Mr O’Gara said he bought the park in 2005 for about €10,000 from PJ Darley, whose ancestors built the square in the 1880s.
The council secured a compulsory purchase order from An Bord Pleanála in 2006, but has yet to reach terms with Mr O’Gara on costs for transfer of ownership.