Updated: 28/12/10 : 14:06:49
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Lissadell owners in Supreme Court appeal

The owners of Lissadell house in Sligo are to appeal to the Supreme Court against a High Court ruling that local people are entitled to use rights of way on the estate. Senior counsel Eddie Walsh and his wife Constance Cassidy, who bought the house for €4 million seven years ago, said after the judgment: ‘‘We had a dream for Lissadell. The dream is dead." That's according to a report in The Sunday Business Post.

The historic property was formerly owned by the Gore-Booth family and has close links with WB Yeats and Countess Markiewicz.

After a six month court case, Mr Justice Bryan McMahon ruled last week that members of the public had used four routes across the estate ‘‘since the early 1950s at least’’.

Following the High Court ruling, the gates to the main avenues at Lissadell were opened, but Walsh told The Sunday Business Post: ‘‘If the [High Court] decision were to be upheld, Lissadell could not be operated either as a family home or as a tourist facility, for reasons of security, insurance and maintenance.

‘‘The nature of the public rights of way found by the judge also raise fundamental issues as to how they will actually work. For example, we have restored 19th century cobbled drains on the avenues, avenues which are too narrow for two cars to pass each other without driving over these historic drains.

‘‘We have also landscaped the grass verges, but the avenues were not, of course, built for the traffic of today. Cars driving over these drains, and over the grass verges will commit trespass, but realistically, how can this be policed? I believe we are compelled to appeal."

The couple have spent more than €7 million renovating the estate. The works included the planting of 14,000 oak trees and 200 heritage apple trees, renovation of the alpine and kitchen gardens, restoration of woodlands, rebuilding of a reservoir, the erection of one kilometre of stone walls and reconstruction of estate buildings, including the coach house and riding arena.

One local supporter of the owners of Lissadell told The Sunday Business Post: ‘‘The evidence to the court of local access ‘within living memory’ began during the period of the ward ship of Sir Michael Gore-Booth from 1944 to 1987, when the estate was in serious decline.

‘‘The documentary evidence before the court, from the office of wards of court and the council’s own files, was that the council had refused to spend money on the avenues at Lissadell in case they became liable for maintenance. But the judge said that, because Bord Fáilte had given some funding in the 1950s and later, this was effectively the same as local authority road funding."

Costs of the legal action, including the six-month trial, are likely to be up to €6 million, though this figure will increase with the appeal.

It’s understood that discussions about a series of big name concerts in the grounds of Lissadell next year, following last summer’s successful two-night concert by Leonard Cohen, have now been called off.