Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

Farmers were 'trying to extort' money from billionaire brothers

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Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh

Two Co. Dublin farmers were ”trying to extort” money from a company owned by billionaire brothers Luke and Brian Comer, the High Court was told yesterday.

Martin Hayden SC, counsel for Leixlip-based Sainfoin Property Company of which the Comers are directors, made the remark when he successfully had an injunction granted against their firm thrown out.

Farmers Rory Bridgette, of Sandy Hill Way, Ballymun, and Albert Murphy, from Furry Park, Cloghran, obtained the injunctions on Monday last after alleging they had been “bullied, intimidated and threatened” by agents of the billionaire businessmen in a row over a five acre field at Turnapin near Dublin Airport.

The farmers claimed they used the lands for grazing their horses and ponies and had been granted the injunction restraining alleged threats or trespass by Sainfoin “or its agents” on them or the lands.

When the matter returned before the court on Thursday Mr Hayden, who appeared with solicitor Andrew Turner, said there was no evidence to support the claims made by the two farmers.

Mr Hayden said the farmers were trying to extort money from the company. He said Bridgette had told the company’s representative that he wanted substantial compensation before moving off the land as he had rights to the field.

He said the land clearly belonged to Sainfoin Property and the two farmers were the trespassers.

Mr Hayden told Ms Justice Eileen Creedon that the two farmers had no rights or interest in the land which the company had purchased as part of a deal for 230 acres in 2014.

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Judge Creedon said she was discontinuing the injunction on the basis she preferred the evidence tendered on behalf of the company.

Mr Hayden said there was no evidence the two farmers had, as they claimed, been in occupation of the field since the early 2000's or that the previous owner had been aware they had been occupying the land. Evidence was also given that the lands had been leased to another farmer who had ploughed the field between 2003 and 2010.

He said the company refuted all allegations that it or any of its representatives had acted in a threatening manner towards the farmers whose claims he described to the judge as “scandalous”and made to denigrate the firm in the eyes of the court.

Barrister Michael Ronayne, counsel for the farmers, said a conflict in fact existed between the parties. The farmers had acted as the result of communications they claimed to have received on behalf of “the Comer brothers" who, they alleged, had told them to remove their horses and ponies from the land.

The farmers had also claimed that a mound of soil had been dumped in a laneway leading up to the field preventing them from accessing the lands and that locks on gates had been cut off. Fence posts had been cut and a horse taken and placed in a pound operated by the local authority, all of which, the farmers had claimed, had been reported to gardaí.

The proceedings taken out by the farmers now await a date for trial.

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