A bank official’s back garden grew to the size of a hockey pitch when a judge told her the land she had looked after for 12 years was now hers.
Mary Byrne, of 33 Brian Road, Marino, Dublin, had told the Circuit Civil Court that she tended old allotments leased by Dublin Corporation to her grandfather and which were passed down to her through her grandparents.
Judge Francis Comerford granted Ms Byrne a declaration that the lands, extending to just under a quarter of an acre, were now hers. He said Dublin City Council had missed an opportunity to turn the property into a public amenity or to return them to allotments status for local residents.
The judge said that while he would hand ownership over to Ms Byrne, he refused her an injunction that would have restrained local authority agents, or anyone with knowledge of the injunction, from trespassing on the lands.
Gavin Ralston SC, for Ms Byrne, told the court that the area in question was a left-over portion of a construction site from 1934, behind the houses and back gardens of a development bordered by Brian Road, Brian Avenue, and St Declan’s Road, in Marino.
Mr Ralston, who appeared with barrister, Francis McGagh, and Byrne and Company Solicitors, said it had been Dublin Corporation’s intention to grant allotments to householders whose rear gardens abutted the leftover land.
Local residents had failed to show much interest in the scheme and Ms Byrne’s grandfather had been given a tenancy of all of the allotments, for a few pence a year. He had paid the rent and had occupied the land with vegetables and hens.
When he had died, his widow had taken over tending the plots and the Byrne family had continued possession of it. In due course, no rent was paid and Mary Byrne, the granddaughter and plaintiff in the case before the court, had acquired the house, No 33.
In 1995, the local authority had served notice to quit on Ms Byrne, telling her to give up possession or face ejectment proceedings from the plots, but the authority never followed it up. When Ms Byrne realised she had been in adverse possession for the legally stipulated 12 years, she had sought to have the lands registered in her name.
The Lands Registry had not been prepared to register her as full owner and she had asked Dublin Corporation to consent to the change of ownership, which it had refused, leading to the present legal proceedings.
“It is unfortunate, from the point of view of the public interest, as I believe this land should have been taken into public ownership,” said Judge Comerford.
“The Corporation had a chance to move in in 1996 and it is unfortunate, in the public interest, that wasn’t done. But I have to have regard for the plaintiff’s legal rights. I am satisfied she was in adverse possession for 12 years.”
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