Dispute over shooting rights in Portmagee goes to court

Trespass civil case heard in Cahersiveen district court results in compensation for loss of income

Sinead Kelleher

A land dispute between former shooting partners ended up in the district court on Thursday amid claims of trespassing.

In a civil case heard at Cahersiveen District Court, Frank Donnelly of Lakelands, Lake Road, Waterville sought damages alleging that John Donnelly Senior of Ardcost, Portmagee and Donal O'Sullivan of Spukane, Waterville had trespassed and poached on land he had rented for that purpose.

Plaintiff Frank Donnelly claimed that their actions had led to a loss of income as he was unable to take a group shooting on the same lands.

Both defendants also gave evidence and claimed that they did not know Mr Donnelly had the lands - at Ardcost, Portmagee - rented for shooting.

Mr Donnelly told the court that when he had seen Mr O'Sullivan and Mr Donnelly on his land he had told them to leave.

He told the court that forests which have been "poached are no good" and that, as a result of the the two men entering his lands with a seperate shooting party, he had to take his group elsewhere and could not shoot on the lands.

The two men accepted that they had been on the land but both said that they did not poach the lands as no shooting took place and no birds had went up.

They admitted to the court that they had three French nationals with them and that they were being paid to take them shooting.

Judge Waters asked Mr O'Sullivan what steps he had taken to see if he had the right to go into the lands.

He told the court that he had shot on these lands for years and had shot on them with Mr Frank Donnelly previously. The court heard he had also worked for Frank Donnelly.

He said he didn't believe Frank Donnelly had rights over the lands as he had shot there before with him and he had no such rights. He added that he had left the land within 10 to 15 minutes of being told to do so - Mr Donnelly said that was not the case and alleged they had been on the land for an hour.

Mr O'Sullivan said he also has lands leased for shooting but not from Coillte.

Judge Waters said that Mr O'Sullivan was "extremely evasive".

John Donnelly also gave evidence and said that that had gone into "shoot it" but did not know that Frank Donnellly owned the lands.

"I was going in there for years."

"I thought it was open lands, Frank and I had shot there for years."

"You had no right to go in there," said Judge Waters.

"You did not get permission. You went in to to get a livelihood."

Judge Waters said that the case was in court to decide what compensation to give to Mr Donnelly for using his land for their commerical gain. He also asked why they had not resolved the case previously and Mr Donnelly replied: "I thought it was rigamarole".

Judge Waters said both men went onto Mr Donnelly's land to gain comercially without finding out who owned it and that it was clear that they were trespassing. He said that he had to take it at face value that they didn't know Mr Donnelly owned it but that he was cynical about that. He ordered that €1,500 compensation be paid to Mr Donnelly and costs.