Skellig Michael boatman brings action over passenger number limits

A boatman who brings visitors to Skellig Michael has brought a High Court action over the Minister for Transport's decision to limit the season in which passengers can be landed at the UNESCO world heritage site, writes Ann O'Loughlin.

Sean, otherwise Seanie, Murphy, claims the Minister's decision has reduced by one third the traditional season for landing passengers.

Mr Murphy has for several years operated a boat taking visitors to the monastic settlement site, also a location for blockbuster movie Star Wars The Force Awakens and the forthcoming sequel Star Wars the Last Jedi.

The Department of Transport informed him on March 30 2015, the day before the traditional season began, that visits from licensed passenger boats to the island could from that point on only take place between May 15 and September 30 - when the National Monument Service has staff on the island.

Mr Murphy was told the limits were being put in place for health and safety reasons and followed a communication to the Department from the National Monument Service which owns the island, landing pier and access road.

Licensed passenger boats cannot land on the island out of season without prior permission from the National Monument Service.

In judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Murphy is seeking various orders and declarations, including the quashing of the Minister's decision to limit the landing season.

He argues the Minister is not entitled to select the length of the landing season, that the decision was taken without any consultation with Mr Murphy and irrelevant considerations were taken into account by the Department.

In a judgement concerning preliminary discovery issues, Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled Mr Murphy is entitled to be provided with material, including emails, notes, records and documents concerning the carrying of passengers to and from Skellig Michael.

Refusing orders permitting Mr Murphy to cross-examine an official who had sworn affidavits on behalf of the Minister, the judge said the discovery order should suffice. If any difficulties remained, Mr Murphy's lawyers could make a fresh application to cross examine the official.

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