Court hears of islanders’ reluctance over outsiders

TOURISTS may be embraced with open arms on the Aran Islands but when it comes to someone moving in permanently with them things can be a little different, a garda has claimed.

They even refused to bend the rules when a new garda sergeant started looking for a home in which to settle among them with his wife and young family, Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Matthew Deery, was told.

“There is a reluctance by the islanders to sell property to outsiders,” retired Garda Sergeant Christopher Joyce said in the Circuit Civil Court. “I searched for sites for a new home but found none for sale.”

Mr Joyce, 60, is suing the Garda Commissioner and the state for more than €32,000 expenses related to his transfer in 2000 from Ballina, Co Mayo, to Kilronan sub district on Inismore with responsibility for law-keeping also on Inismaan and Inisheer.

He said that when he eventually found a site for sale in 2003, he faced huge issues in relation to legal title. He was refused planning permission on the basis he was not a native islander as laid down in the Galway County Council’s Development Plan.

Barrister Cliona Kimber, counsel for Mr Joyce, said a non-native could not buy a house on the islands and he had sold his home in Ballina and moved to a new home in Glenard Avenue, Salthill, Co Galway.

Joe Jeffers, counsel for the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice, told the court Mr Joyce had been fully paid lodging and travel and subsistence allowances and it was denied he was entitled any further monies claimed.

Gda Joyce said the islands were policed from Kilronan by a sergeant and two gardaí on duty 24-7 for a week at a time before being relieved. He had travelled from the mainland to Inismore, or among the islands, by ferry or airplane.

He said he had been paid a €7,963 lodging allowance for a 15-month period after his transfer but was suing for in excess of €17,000 house purchase expenses and just over €14,000 house sale expenses, as well as furniture removal costs.

He claimed it was a condition of his contract that he, like any other garda on transfer, would be entitled to repayment of his removal expenses in accordance with a 1998 Garda HQ Directive, but said reimbursement had wrongfully been refused.

He also claimed damages for distress and inconvenience and said he had been put under severe financial pressure as a result of personally having to pay for removal expenses. He alleged he had been financially compromised and suffered sleep and appetite disturbance and irritability due to worry about being able to provide for his family.

Inspector Anne Wedgeworth, of the Garda Finance Directorate, said it had been decided Mr Joyce was not entitled to house purchase expenses as he had bought his new home in Salthill outside a permitted 15-mile limit from the garda station.

Judge Deery reserved his judgment.

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