Thursday 15 January 2009

Lissadell owners to take council to court

THE OWNERS of Lissadell House yesterday issued High Court proceedings against Sligo County Council just days after the historic estate closed its doors to the public.

Last night barrister Eddie Walsh, who with his wife Constance Cassidy bought the childhood home of 1916 leader Countess Markievicz in 2003, said he was “absolutely shattered” and felt that five years’ work had been poured down the drain.

The couple closed the house last Monday, blaming the council’s decision to amend its county development plan to assert public rights of way through the estate.

The owners, who insist that they bought Lissadell as a private property and that no such rights of way exist, expressed anger that they had received no communication from Sligo County Council since last Monday when elected members passed a resolution that a meeting be sought with them on the issue.

They said that they viewed this matter with the utmost gravity but “it is very clear to us that the council do not regard this matter as urgent”.

Mr Walsh said that irrespective of the outcome of the court proceedings, he doubted whether “we will ever see Lissadell in the same shape”. And he stressed that if the family lose the case “we are gone”.

He said he believed that his position, that there are no public rights of way through the estate, would be upheld by the court but even if this is the case “I just question whether all the effort, commitment and money has been worthwhile”.

A spokesman for the council said last night that it had hoped to meet the owners of Lissadell House to discuss the situation as recommended by the elected members on Monday.

He said that given that legal proceedings had now been initiated, it would be inappropriate to make any other comment.

There has been controversy since the couple announced last week they were closing Lissadell as a tourist attraction and at last Monday’s monthly meeting of the council, standing orders were suspended to allow a discussion on the matter.

A resolution was passed that the manager and officials would enter into discussion with the owners and local people with a view to having the matter resolved.

The owners said that the only reason they knew about this resolution was because they learned of it in the media.

They added that they had also repeatedly asked for documents from the council, but these have not been made available either.

“Accordingly, in circumstances where the county council do not appear to be complying with their own resolution, we have today instituted legal proceedings.

“The matter will now proceed in the High Court,” they said.

Mr Walsh said that since Monday they had been manning the phones and had awaited an e-mail or a communication through the post either to Lissadell, the Law Library or though their solicitor, but to no avail.

He said that when they had bought Lissadell they had inquired from the council whether there were public roads in charge there and in a response the council had not made any reference to rights of way which “I would have thought disingenuous if not deceptive or downright dishonest”.

He said he and his family had spent over four years working and pouring money into Lissadell in an attempt to achieve something wonderful there and he was “utterly appalled and horrified” that the council after almost five years had taken this step.

Irish Times

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