Council faces legal bill for millions in Lissadell case
SLIGO County Council is facing a multi-million euro legal bill after the Supreme Court ordered it to pay most of the costs of the long and bitter legal row over public rights of way in the Lissadell Estate.
The full costs of the case, which was initiated in 2009, are estimated to be at least €7m.
The five-judge court yesterday 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.
In a statement, Sligo county manager Ciaran Hayes, who took up his role just four months ago, said: "While the existence of a public right of way has been established over a portion of the lands, I wish to express my disappointment at the Supreme Court decision, which brings to an end a difficult chapter in Sligo.
"At this time, my only other public comment is to express my desire that Lissadell House and lands would continue for the benefit of current and future generations of people in Sligo and the northwest region."
In making the costs order, Chief Justice Susan Denham noted that the owners had sought declarations that there were no public rights of way over four routes.
The Supreme Court had last November ruled that there were no public rights of way over three of those routes, but found there was a right of way over part of the fourth, a coastal route to the beach at Lissadell.
Taking all the circumstances of the case into account, the court would grant the owners three- quarters of their costs in the High and Supreme Courts, the Chief Justice said.
The owners had asked the court to order the council to pay all costs in both courts – but the council argued "justice" would be met by an order that both sides pay their own costs.
Lawyers for both sides also insisted their clients had made efforts to settle the dispute and each party blamed the other over failure to do so. The court yesterday gave its reserved decision on costs and other issues raised by both sides.
The Chief Justice also noted the owners had withdrawn their application to remit for hearing by the High Court their claim for damages arising from alleged slander, by the council, of their title to Lissadell.
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 that litigation was inevitable if they persisted in closing off routes at Lissadell.
Fine Gael councillor Joe Leonard, whose council motion led to the dispute, was unavailable for comment last night. He has decided not to seek re-election this year.