Skellig boatman rejects OPW claim

The operator of a passenger boat service to Skellig Michael has rejected claims by the Office of Public Works that he has “played down” or “trivialised” convictions he received relating to boat trips to the Unesco World Heritage site.

Skellig boatman rejects OPW claim

Sean Feehan pleaded guilty at Cahirciveen District Court in September 2015 to three offences under the Merchant Shipping Act and as a result, the OPW revoked his permits allowing him to land visitors at the monastic settlement.

The UNESCO World Heritage site was a location of blockbuster movie Star Wars the Force Awakens.

Mr Feehan, who has been taking passengers to the settlement off the Co Kerry Coast since 1980, claims the decision to revoke is unfair. In proceedings against the OPW, he seeks declarations including that the decision to revoke his permits is invalid, unlawful, and breaches his constitutional rights.

Mr Feehan had been operating two boats the ‘Pace Arrow’ and the ‘Naughty Lady’ to the monastic settlement from Ballinskelligs on the mainland. The OPW denies the claims.

Mr Feehan, of Dungegan, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, previously secured a temporary injunction preventing the OPW from issuing two of four permits they have invited tenders for to other parties.

The case returned before Mr Justice Anthony O’Connor at the High Court yesterday where lawyers for Mr Feehan asked the court to have the injunction, as well as an order allowing him land passengers at Skellig Michael, kept in place pending the full hearing of his action.

The OPW in its opposition to Mr Feehan’s action told the High Court he has attempted to trivialise what it considers to be serious matters in relation to passenger safety.

Two of the offences took place on a date the OPW said was out of season, where none of its staff were manning the island.

Hugh O’Neill, counsel for the OPW, said that his client was prepared to give an undertaking not to issue the two permits pending the full trial.

Counsel said that the OPW opposes any order allowing Mr Feehan to land passengers at the site.

Paul McGarry, for Mr Feehan, said that his client rejected the OPW assertion that he has tried to trivialise the convictions, and maintained they were technical in nature and did not reflect his ability to safely land visitors.

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