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Saturday 16 February 2019

Privacy-conscious Pat's costly spat over strip of land beside his house

Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Pat Kenny's knowledgeable and probing style of broadcasting has earned him large audiences for decades.

During that time, he has proven to be no shrinking violet, with interviewees frequently taken to task when it was warranted.

But it has been in his private life where his combative nature has truly come to the fore.

Mr Kenny is fiercely protective of his family's privacy and it came as little surprise when he and his wife Kathy objected to a proposed development of three apartment blocks and seven houses on a site adjacent to their home in Dalkey, south county Dublin.

Loss of privacy and residential amenity were among concerns he and his wife outlined in a 16-page letter to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

The proposed development is on land formerly owned by the late solicitor Gerard Charlton, with whom Mr Kenny became embroiled in a bitter property dispute.

The row, dubbed the Battle for Gorse Hill, began in 2006 and rumbled on for two years in the High Court.

Ultimately, it ended only when the Kennys agreed to purchase a disputed plot of land, at a reputed cost of up to €2m including legal fees, from Mr Charlton and his wife Maeve.

The case was a classic example of previously friendly neighbours falling out spectacularly over property.

At one stage during the dispute, then-High Court judge Frank Clarke, who is now the Chief Justice, observed: "It would be fair to say that the proceedings appear to be marked with a considerable degree of acrimony on all sides."

In a nutshell, the dispute revolved around a 0.2-acre strip of land close to both the homes of the Kennys and the Charltons. The Charltons claimed to be the legal and beneficial owners of the property, but the Kennys contested this, suggesting that any title the Charltons may have had was extinguished by adverse possession.

The Charltons bought their home, Maple Tree House, in 1971 and claimed the disputed parcel of land was part of that purchase. The Kennys bought an adjoining property in 1988 and later built their home, The Anchorage, there.

There is no suggestion that Mr Kenny ever wanted to develop the disputed parcel of land.

Instead, it appears his intention was to protect his family's privacy and security and for the land to be a nature reserve.

Mr Kenny said he had fenced it off and made it inaccessible 16 years previously.

The court heard Mr Kenny installed an electronic pedestrian gate for access to the land, but that when Mr Charlton asked for the access code, it was not given to him.

It was claimed by counsel for the Charltons that an acrimonious meeting occurred in July 2006.

Around that time, Mr Kenny was said to have expressed concern that another property nearby might be bought by a developer.

Mr Kenny was said to have asked what Mr Charlton's "agenda" was in relation to the disputed land, to which Mr Charlton was said to have replied that it was none of his business. It was claimed that as Mr Charlton made his way up steps towards the property, he was jostled by Mr Kenny.

Mr Kenny was said to have run up the steps "with his fists raised", telling Mr Charlton he was not getting in.

During subsequent court proceedings, lawyers for the Kennys voiced concerns over a proposed inspection of the property by members of the Charlton family and their professional advisers.

The court ruled those present be limited to the Charltons' solicitor and two experts.

At another point, it emerged the Kennys had been unwilling to reveal to solicitors for the Charltons they were on holiday because of concerns arising out of an alleged incident on a previous occasion when they were away.

Finally, the dispute was settled in mediation with the Kennys agreeing to buy the parcel of land for an undisclosed sum.

Afterwards, Mr Kenny said assertions from only one side of the dispute had been heard. He rejected these and said they would have been "utterly rebutted" by him in court had the case continued.

Irish Independent

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