Lissadell case to be appealed
Owners will go to Supreme Court as legal costs over rights of way reach €6m
THE owners of Lissadell House in Sligo are to appeal a High Court ruling that confirmed the existence of rights of way through the historic estate.
Yesterday, a High Court judge awarded costs, estimated to be in the region of €6m, to Sligo County Council and against the owners, Constance Cassidy and Edward Walsh.
However, Mr Justice Bryan put a stay on his costs order on the basis that the barrister couple's lawyers will seek an expedited hearing of the appeal in the Supreme Court.
The Walsh-Cassidys purchased the former home of Countess Constance Markievicz, the State's first female minister, in 2003 for €3.75m and spent an estimated €9.5m restoring it to its former glory.
They brought the case against Sligo County Council after the council had amended its development plan to include provision for the "preservation of the public rights of way" along certain routes at Lissadell.
The 58-day action, which opened in October last year, involved 52 witnesses and 8,000 pages of manuscripts.
The cost, estimated to be in the region of €6m, is expected to spiral now that an appeal is to go to the Supreme Court.
At yesterday's High Court hearing, Brian Murray, for the couple, said that he hoped the appeal could be heard earlier than the current three-year wait, because it related to "rights of way" throughout the country generally.
Mr Murray sought a stay on the costs order, which was opposed by John Rogers, for Sligo County Council.
Mr Rogers argued that the council had sought a resolution to the matter in order to avoid high legal costs.
This included a written offer to settle on the basis that the owners would acknowledge that the "sea route" through the the estate was a public right or way.
Mr Rogers said the case had led to "enormous costs" for his client, which provides public services with limited and diminishing resources.
It had been highlighted to the owners, in the correspondence, that the council did not want litigation "and, in effect, could not afford it".
In the event of an appeal, his client would have to bear costs already incurred in defending this matter and of the counter-claim that it had brought against the owners, he said.
Mr Rogers said the judge should also take into account that the case had "ballooned" after assertions were made that there was collusion between council officials and locals.
The judge had found there was no substance to that claim, counsel said.
However, Mr Murray said his clients were firmly of the view that there were no rights of way.
Mr Justice McMahon said it was a very unusual case and he granted a stay on the basis that the owners would seek an expedited hearing from the Supreme Court.