Thursday 22 October 2009

Lissadell case adjourned after documents found

THE LEGAL row over whether there are public rights of way through the historic Lissadell Estate in Co Sligo has been adjourned for several weeks following the recent discovery of documents potentially relevant to the issue.

The adjournment came yesterday after lawyers for Sligo County Council told the High Court documents had recently been discovered, some believed to date from the early 19th century, which may be relevant to the case.

Mr Justice Bryan McMahon agreed to an application by the owners of the estate, barristers Constance Cassidy SC and Edward Walsh SC, to adjourn the proceedings in those circumstances.

Donal O’Donnell SC, for the owners, following discussions between the parties, had asked the judge to adjourn so as to “allow certain inquires to be made” with a view to recommencing the hearing.

Nuala Butler SC, for the council, consented to the adjournment.

Mr Justice McMahon earlier refused Mr O’Donnell’s application to abort the case completely after saying he he did not wish to make a judgment “in ignorance of evidence” that may come into the public domain.

He wished to consider the case as fairly and as expeditiously as possible, he said.

The case will be mentioned before the High Court in December to see how matters have progressed.

In their proceedings, Ms Cassidy and Mr Walsh, with addresses at Morristown, Lattin, Naas, Co Kildare, and Lissadell, are seeking orders and declarations that four routes in the estate are not subject to any public rights of way.

The council is also facing a claim for damages for alleged slander of title, negligence and intentional and/or unlawful interference with the owners’ economic interests.

The council denies all the claims and, in a counter-claim, wants a declaration the four routes are subject to a public right of way.

The proceedings were initiated after the council on December 1th last passed a resolution to amend the Sligo County Development plan to include a provision for the “preservation of the public rights of way” along certain routes at Lissadell.

The council has claimed no decision to begin the formal process of amending the plan has been made to date and that it assured the owners it had not determined public rights of way exist over the lands.

However, as a result of the council’s resolution, the owners closed Lissadell House, the former home of the Gore-Booth family, to the public last January. The Gore-Booth family owned the Lissadell Estate, which originally consisted of some 32,000 acres, for more than 400 years.

The owners claim they would be unable to operate the estate as a tourist amenity if the rights of way existed.

They bought the estate, the former home of Countess Constance Markievicz, for almost €4 million in 2003 and have spent some €9.5 million restoring it.

Irish Times

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