Council faces millions in legal bills over Lissadell access battle

 Elanor Walsh with her brothers and sisters outside the Four Courts in Dublin after their parents secured a Supreme Court ruling over public access along four routes through Lissadell estate. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Sligo County Council may have to fork out several million euro in legal costs after the owners of the Lissadell estate won a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that there are no public rights of way across four avenues through the historic grounds.

The five-judge court yesterday found a public right of way across part of a coastal route through the estate taking in the beach at Lissadell, but quashed a High Court declaration granting a right to park cars on Lissadell lands adjoining that section.

The judgment of the court yesterday marks the final stage in the long and bitter legal battle between the council and barristers Constance Cassidy and Edward Walsh, who bought the estate and 410 acres for €4m in 2003 and spent €9.5m restoring it.

Outside the Four Courts in Dublin, the couple’s daughter Elanor said the family are going to take time to decide what the future will hold “both for ourselves and Lissadell”.

Ms Walsh said her parents were very happy the Supreme Court had found public rights of way did not exist, particular in front of the house.

The only right of way recognised by the court, she said, was the right to walk along the seafront by the Alpine Garden, which they had always permitted.

When Constance Cassidy and Edward Walsh learned in 2004 that public rights of way were being asserted over routes in the estate, they locked the gates on the main avenue, resulting in a campaign to ensure public rights of way at Lissadell in which, the Supreme Court noted, Cllr Joe Leonard was “particularly active”.

After the council in Dec 2008 resolved to amend the county development plan to provide for preservation of public rights of way over four routes, the owners took High Court proceedings insisting there were no public rights of way.

After a 58-day hearing, Mr Justice Bryan McMahon dismissed the owners’ claims, but they appealed to the Supreme Court.

Costs in the case will be decided later. The costs of the High Court case were estimated at more than €6m and overall costs are estimated at more than €7m.


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