James Connolly, for Clare County Council, told Mr Justice David Keane the provision on the pier of an “unauthorised ultra-cabin structure” was a matter of great concern which was protecting the public interest through the planning regulations.
Mr Connolly said selling tickets from a folding table in the open air, did not require planning permission as did the use of the ultra cabin, purportedly a replacement for an old, unoccupied, derelict and long unused structure on the Doolin pier at Ballaghaline.
The county council seeks an injunction immediately restraining ticket sales from the new cabin and, ultimately at a full trial, will seek its removal.
Oisin Collins, counsel for Dick Grant, a director of Sarahfenn Limited, which trades as Aran Island Fast Ferries, described the county council’s out-of-place proceedings as “a wild card operation” to stop his client and another sea and coastal ferry owner, Liam O’Brien, from selling tickets from the cabin. Mr Collins said there had been a structure on the pier for the past 20 to 25 years, and the new ultra cabin was simply a replacement. Mr Grant and his operations would be hit financially, he said.
Helen Quinn, a senior executive in Clare County Council’s planning, economic development and tourism department, stated Liam O’Brien and his company, Baid Farantoireachta an Chosta Teoranta, like Mr Grant’s ferry company, engaged in sea and coastal water transport to and from Doolin Habour. “There is a history of intense competition for business between rival ferry operators in Doolin which in the past has resulted in patrols of the pier by gardaí as well as protracted civil and criminal litigation at district and circuit courts,” she said.
There had been a history of enforcement action taken by the planning authority with respect to unauthorised developments undertaken by various rival ferry operators, most recently as against the “O’Brien Line Doolin Ferry” owned by Liam O’Brien and the “Doolin2Aran Ferries and Cliffs of Moher” cruise enterprises.
Ms Quinn said that in early May last, the ultra cabin had been delivered and positioned without the consent of the county council, and was being used as a commercial ticket sales office, advertisement structure, and shop.
She told the court the move was symptomatic of the competition between rival ferry operators for the purpose of providing a second ticket office for one over others in a jockeying for trade. Previously all traders had to share a single ticket sales facility.
Dick Grant, through his solicitor, had claimed ownership of the offending cabin and claimed an historical legal agreement for its remaining on the pier.
John Punch presented the legal and historical case on behalf of ferry operator Liam Quinn.
Judge Keane, who described the arrival of the new ultra cabin as “hardly the equivalent of the erection of an Eiffel Tower where once stood a garden shed,” said he would give judgment on the application for a tickets injunction on Thursday.