A magnificent new clubhouse for Fossa Rowing Club, established 123 years ago, was opened on Killarney’s Lough Leane in 2012.
However, its barrister Stephen O’Halloran told Judge Terence O’Sullivan that the club was effectively closed after a dispute that has been continuing for two decades.
Cornelius A Dennehy, a farmer, who once rowed with Fossa would have liked to continue to accommodate the club, the court heard, but the levels of aggression towards him had become “unbearable”.
Judge O’Sullivan said it was with some regret he was dismissing the club’s claim for both right of way and for the more unusual customary right of way.
He said club members had long been accommodated by Mr Dennehy and his family who had behaved as good neighbours.
Elizabeth Murphy, barrister for the Dennehys, said to the very end the club had maintained an aggressive position towards the Dennehys: “It had purchased a landlocked piece of foreshore and was saying ‘now you must accommodate us’.
However, difficulties arose in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the club’s activities increased, and speed, traffic, indiscriminate parking were among the issues.
The club bought the area of foreshore from the Earls of Kenmare in 2007. It obtained planning in 2010 and erected a clubhouse over an Easter weekend in 2012.
Unfortunately, there was an element of putting the cart before the horse, the judge said. Since 1993 when the club had forced a trailer through the Dennehy lands and Mr Dennehy and his wife Suzanne objected, they could have been under no illusion that there was consent to a right of way, he said.
In 2010 the Dennehys had put up a gate across the narrow road. The club had erected their club house when proceedings they initiated in 2011 suing the Dennehys for a right of way were still in train.
The judge said he wanted to stress, when people who were landowners behaved in a neighbourly fashion and did not have a fortress mentality, it did not mean they were conceding their rights.
The judge found most of the witnesses were truthful and reasonable, but unfortunately for the rowing club there were elements within the club which were quite “aggressive”.
He said the club had not taken the concerns about some of their members speeding seriously and it had “soured the pitch”.
Judge O’Sullivan said the price of the court’s decision for the local community was very high but equally the rowing club must understand the defendants owned the land and a degree of care was needed and property owners constitutional rights are protected, the judge said.
Judge O’Sullivan is to make an order for costs on Tuesday.
However, he urged all sides to use the weekend to devise a system where people can find a way to access the building.