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Judge to decide on costs in public rights row

A WICKLOW landowner who won a High Court declaration that there was no public right-of-way on his property -- as had been claimed by a local walking association -- will have to wait to know who will pay the costs of the case.

Mr Justice John MacMenamin yesterday reserved his decision on costs when the matter came before him.

In his judgment last month Mr Justice MacMenamin granted Joseph Walker a declaration there was no public right-of-way over 500 metres of his property at Annacrivey, Enniskerry, following a lengthy dispute with members of the Enniskerry Walkers Association (EWA).

Mr Walker had brought proceedings against Niall Lenoach, Monastery Grove, Enniskerry and Noel Barry, of Monastery, Enniskerry, both described in court as "leading members" of the EWA, formed to agitate for the opening up of rights of ways for the benefit of the public.

Mr Justice MacMenamin, who said the case involved a dispute where "matters got out of hand", held the route was not a public right-of-way.

The judge said his order applied to the two defendants -- but not to others -- as Mr Walker never sought to join others to the case.

The judge was not prepared to make a declaration binding "on the whole world" and had no jurisdiction to do so. He also said the law concerning the existence of public rights-of-way should be reformed.

Yesterday, the matter was returned before the judge to determine who should pay the legal costs, estimated to be a six-figure sum, of the case that ran for 11 days in the High Court.

Counsel for Mr Walker said that as a result of the court's judgment his client was entitled to his costs.

The defendants, he said had raised no point of public importance that would entitle them to their costs, counsel added.

However, counsel for the defendants said his clients should get their costs on grounds including that Mr Walker had only achieved "a crumb" of the reliefs sought in his proceedings.

Compromise

Mr Justice McMenamin said he would give his decision concerning the costs of the action as soon as possible.

The judge also invited the parties to take steps to work out a compromise over their differences.

The proceedings arose when Mr Walker obtained a High Court injunction preventing a walk across his lands arranged by the EWA in September 2008.

The association, it was claimed, was part of a wider movement to open up Ireland and its roads for the people.

The defendants argued there was a public road in the disputed area since 1760 known as the Old Coach Road and they claimed there was evidence of the road on maps from 1760 onwards.

Irish Independent