Council to pay bulk of costs in pet cremation plan row
A 10-year legal battle over a proposal to turn a milking parlour into a pet crematorium in Wicklow ended yesterday.
It followed a Supreme Court decision yesterday ordering Wicklow County Council to pay most of the substantial costs of a bitter row between councillors and the county manager.
Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell was giving the three-judge court's judgment on costs, arising from the unsuccessful challenge to a July 2000 decision of the county manager granting planning permission for the conversion of a milking parlour for use as a pet crematorium at Oghill, Redcross.
While three individual councillors -- Thomas Cullen, Patrick Doran and Nicky Kelly -- could not escape some liability for some of the "utterly wasteful and expensive course" they had initiated against the manager, their costs bill should be reduced somewhat, Mr Justice O'Donnell also ruled.
The proceedings were a "disaster" and had led to "a very sorry situation for all concerned", the judge added.
The case, he said, "should act as a salutary lesson to those who insist on seeking to litigate matters of supposed principle, particularly when they seek to do so with other people's money".
The High Court decision upholding the manager's permission was given in 2003 but the question of who should pay the costs then became subject of a bitter battle among councillors.
In 2004, the High Court ruled those liable for the costs of the action against the manager were councillors Nicky Kelly, a former independent but now of the Labour Party; Pat Doran, of Fianna Fail; and Tommy Cullen, a former member of Labour.
The High Court found the proceedings were at no time authorised by members of the council and in fact were commenced on the instructions of the three members without authority from other members.
Giving the Supreme Court judgment on the appeal by the three councillors against the costs orders, Mr Justice O'Donnell said it was difficult to credit that a "virtual civil war" had raged in the council in summer 2000 over the proposal by Andrew Byrne for the pet crematorium.
Last night Mr Kelly, described the ruling as a "vindication for local democracy".
And now instead of facing a possible legal bill of up to €500,000 for 13 days of costs, Mr Kelly and his two colleagues would only be liable for two days, he said.
"We won't really know exactly how much we'll have to pay until the it comes before the Taxing Master in October," Mr Kelly said.