Sunday 26 October 2014

Sligo County Council faces multi-million bill over Lissadell case

Published 02/04/2014 | 11:10

Sligo County Council is facing a bill of several million euro after the Supreme Court today ordered it to pay most of the costs of the long and bitter legal row over public rights of way across the historic Lissadell estate in Co Sligo.

The full costs of the case, initiated in 2009,  are estimated at least €7m and the five judge court today ordered the Council to pay three quarters of the legal costs incurred by the Lissadell owners, barristers Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, in the High and Supreme Courts. The Council must also pay its own legal costs bill.

In making the costs order, the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, noted the owners had sought declarations that there were no public rights of way over four routes in the estate.

The Supreme Court had last November ruled there were no public rights of way over three of those routes and found there was a right of way over part of the fourth route, a coastal route to the beach at Lissadell.

The owners had asked the court to order the Council to pay all of the costs while the Council argued "justice" would be met by an order direccing both sides to pay their own costs. Lawyers for both sides also insisted their clients had made efforts to settle the dispute and each blamed the other over failure to do so. 

The court today gave its reserved decision on costs and other issues raised by both sides arising from the court's judgment allowing the owners' appeal against the High Court finding of public rights of way across all four routes at Lissadell.

Following that judgment, the Council raised issues concerning particular findings of the court and effectively sought a review of those. The court refused that application in its ruling today.

The Chief Justice also noted the owners had withdrawn their application to remit for hearing by the High Court their claim for damages arising from alleged slander by the Council if their title to Lissadell.

During the costs applications last month, the Council had claimed the owners were determined to proceed with litigation despite its offer to settle the case on the basis of acceptance of a public right of way to the beach at Lissadell. The owners countered that the Council had, both in the High and Supreme Courts, maintained its claim all routes of way through the estate were public.

The owners said they initiated their case in January 2009 in response to the Council passing a resolution in December 2008 aimed at protecting public rights of way at Lissadell. Before that resolution, the Council wrote to the owners warning litigation was inevitable if they persisted in closing off routes at Lissadell.

The Council argued the owners were told that resolution had no legal effect and it also submitted it, as a public body, has a duty to protect public rights of way.

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