Council still waiting on ruling in Lissadell case

Paul Deering

Published 11/03/2014 | 05:40

Sligo County Council will have to wait a while longer to learn if it's going to be saddled with a multi million euro legal bill following the Lissadell rights of way case.

Sligo County Council will have to wait a while longer to learn if it's going to be saddled with a multi million euro legal bill following the Lissadell rights of way case.

The Supreme Court reserved judgement on costs in the case at a hearing last Tuesday.

Lissadell owners Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy urged the Court to order the Council pay all of the costs of the action, said to be about €7m.

During the hearing the owners withdrew an application asking the Supreme Court to remit to the High Court a claim by them for damages over alleged slander of their title to Lissadell

Mr Justice John MacMenamin indicated the reasonableness of the conduct of both sides may be a factor to consider when addressing costs issues.

Last November, the Supreme Court overturned a High Court ruling and found in favour of the owners.

It ruled that a public right of way existed only along a coastal route to the beach at Lissadell.

Following that judgment, the council raised issues concerning particular findings of the court.

The owners asked the court to clarify references to the location of a particular point in the estate and to remit for hearing by the High Court their claim the council slandered their title to Lissadell.

The Supreme Court heard submissions on those issues last Tuesday.

The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, said it was reserving its ruling on all issues, including costs.

Eoin McCullough SC, for the Lissadell owners, said they were entitled to their costs against the council.

John Rogers SC, for the council, said the "justice" of the case would be met by an order directing both sides to pay their own costs.

Mr Rogers argued the owners were determined to proceed with litigation despite an offer by the council to settle the case.

This was on the basis of acceptance of a public right of way to the beach at Lissadell.

Had the parties engaged in mediation or an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, the costs would have been "a mere fraction" in the context of the costs ultimately incurred in the litigation.

Mr McCullough said he was "shocked" by such arguments when the council had, both in the High and Supreme Courts, maintained its claim that all routes of way through the estate were public.

The owners 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, he said.

Before that resolution, the council wrote to the owners warning litigation was inevitable if they persisted in closing off routes at Lissadell.

Mr Rogers said the council resolution had no legal effect, which the owners were told, and that the council, as a public body, had a duty to protect public rights of way.

Mr McCullough said it was not correct to say there were no settlement discussions but it was correct, at a particular time, that his side refused to discuss further.

It was "very dubious" to suggest a party might be penalised over whether or nor they engaged in settlement talks and a duty to protect public rights of way could not be used to expose others to legal costs, he added.

Among the issues to be considered by the Supreme Court is whether it should review its finding that there was no evidence one of the four disputed routes, Farm Avenue, existed before it appeared on an 1885 Ordnance Survey map.

Sligo Champion

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