Dublin City Council owns the River Liffey within its local authority boundary by reason of Royal Charters granted by King John in 1200 and 1215, a court has decided.
Judge Joseph Mathews also ruled in the Circuit Civil Court yesterday that the Council had authority “over history and from time immemorial” to lease the fishing rights to Dublin and District Salmon Anglers’ Association.
The judge said researches by John O’Shee, the city council’s assistant law agent, and Dr Mary Clarke, of the Nathional Archive, indicated that King John had granted “the water of the Liffey for fishing” to the citizens of Dublin.
Judge Mathews said Mr O’Shee in evidence had referred to a court case in 1260 taken by the Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in which the Prior had produced a Charter issued pre 1200 by Henry II which had ratified the grant of lands received by the Order from Strongbow and Hugh Tyrell.
In a settlement of the court case, the Order allowed the city to have the fishing rights on the river from the bridge of Kilmainham to the sea but retained for the Order’s use the rights from Kilmainham back to the Weir at Island Bridge.
The rights retained by the Order had passed back to the Crown under the Dissolution of the Monasteries about 1537 and later, via various interests, to Dublin Corporation in 1741.
Barrister David McParland, counsel for the Association, which has its headquarters at Wellington Park, Terenure, Dublin, had asked Judge Mathews to rule on a preliminary issue of ownership of the river in a fish war between the Association and private developer David Wright.
The anglers allege that Wright, of West Pier, Howth, Co Dublin, illegally built a private jetty out into the tidal river and is trespassing and disturbing the peace and calm of their fishing on it.
Edward Farrelly, counsel for Wright, challenged the City Council’s ownership of the river and its authority to lease it out to anyone. Following yesterday’s ruling on ownership Judge Mathews will decide next month on the issue of the alleged trespass.
The court has been told Wright is the owner of two semi-detached houses at Swan Lake, Chapelizod Road, Dublin, and that three years ago he built the double jetty from the rear of the houses into the river.
The Anglers’ Association claim that two floating pontoons attached to the jetty can be let out into the river and retrieved by use of a rope and that they are being used to moor boats.
Mr McParland said the Association, under its lease, was obliged to protect the fishery from trespass or poaching and it would be seeking an order restraining Wright from continuing with the trespass as well as damages for nuisance and interference with its peaceful fishing of the river.