FIANNA Fail deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv last night denied breaking a High Court injunction by taking part in a protest march at Ashford Castle in Co Mayo.
Mr O Cuiv is to face a claim for damages and could be cited for contempt of court for leading the demonstration on the grounds of the five-star hotel over the weekend.
Yesterday, the barrister for the hotel's owners, James Dwyer, told Mr Justice John Edwards that Mr O Cuiv had led the protest against the alleged closure of a public right of way in blatant defiance of a High Court injunction.
"It was an entirely inappropriate course of action for him to take," Mr Dwyer said.
"A significant number of people, including Mr O Cuiv, blatantly ignored the court order which was read out to them. We intend to have him joined as a defendant to the proceedings."
However, last night Mr O Cuiv said that while he was unaware of the move to add his name to the legal action, he had not breached the High Court's instructions.
"I wasn't aware of any injunction against me or anybody else; it was an injunction against named people," he said.
"If you look at the terms of the injunction, I in no way went in contravention of the terms of the injunction."
Mr Dwyer told the High Court that the hotel owners, Ashford Castle Estate and Ashford Castle Properties, would be seeking damages from all defendants and asking the court to rule that no public right of way existed through the grounds of the estate.
He said the owners were agreeable to having an injunction lifted against two defendants if they undertake not to take any further action against the hotel.
They are Hugh Lavelle of Cong, Co Mayo, and Sile Gibbons, of Quiet Man Cafe, Main Street, Cong, who, respectively, are chairman and secretary of Cong Community Council.
Mr Dwyer told the court that the owners obtained an interim injunction on Friday restraining officials of the community council from going ahead with a protest.
He said the court order also applied to anyone else "with knowledge of the order" from participating in the protest. The order had been read out to all of them, including Mr O Cuiv.
Mr Dwyer told the court the dispute had arisen out of a decision taken by the hotel owners during The Quiet Man Festival in August to restrict traffic and close a number of gates on the estate to protect guests and patrons of the hotel.
A group of people, including members of the community council, had held an hour-long protest against the closure and, with cars, had blocked a bridge, causing inconvenience to some guests who were trying to make flights at Shannon Airport.