Sovereign immunity saves Department over 'failed' potato crop
The farmers claim their total crop losses were valued at over €300,000
An action for damages by two Co Wicklow potato farmers against Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has been dismissed on grounds the department was entitled to sovereign immunity as an agent of the British Crown.
The action was brought by Paul and John Brady, of Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, who claimed in 2012 they had bought €88,000 worth of potato seed, sourced in Co Down, which had failed.
As part of their claim to recover total crop losses of €332,000, they have sued a number of parties including NI's Department of Agriculture, and Rural Development. They alleged the department was negligent in certifying two batches of Premier Elite seed potatoes as fit for purpose.
As a result of alleged shortcomings in examination of the seed by inspectors in Northern Ireland, the Bradys claimed their 2012 crop, which was intended for sale in shops, had failed and turned out to be suitable only for animal feed.
In a pretrial motion, the Department opposed the action arguing the Dublin High Court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the claim against it on grounds that it enjoys sovereign immunity. The proceedings against it should be set aside, the department argued.
When the proceedings were launched, Sinn Fein's MLA Michelle O'Neill was NI's Minister for Agriculture. She has since been replaced as Minister for Agriculture by DUP MLA Michelle McIlveen.
Lawyers for the Bradys had opposed the motion and argued their claim should be heard before the Republic's High Court.