The owners of Lissadell House have claimed that a High Court judge made a fundamental errorî in inferring a right of public access to the estate.
An appeal over rights-of-way at the historic estate in north Sligo got under way at the Supreme Court on Monday.
The appeal has been taken by Lissadell owners, barristers Constance Cassidy and Edward Walsh, against the High Court judgment of Mr Justice Bryan McMahon, delivered in December 2010. Judge McMahon dismissed their proceedings brought against Sligo County Council concerning the alleged existence of rights of way.The owners are also appealing an award of costs against them of the lengthy High Court proceedings, which ran for 58 days and which are estimated at around €6m.
Senior counsel Brian Murray, on behalf of the Lissadell owners, argued in his opening address that Mr Justice McMahon made a fundamental error in inferring a right of public access to the estate.
He argued that the judge had erred in converting evidence about use since the 1950s of four routes in the 410-acre estate into an effective presumption about, and significant extension of, the law governing rights of way.
Mr Murray also submitted that the trial judge also paid little regard to a considerable body of undisputed and documentary evidence showing there could not have been any intention by any of Lissadell’s owners to designate rights of way.The barrister also argued that Sligo county council’s case was sparse and thin.
He said the council was effectively saying the creation of four routes in the last 150 years would have meant there was an event of immense historical interest whereby a private landowner of what was originally a 32,000 acre estate, in an act of unprecedented munificence, dedicated public access to his estate.
This included a route which came right up to the door of Lissadell House despite the fact that the original house had been rebuilt and the estate reconfigured to ensure privacy for the house, he said. The hearing, which is expected to last ten days before the five-judge Supreme Court, continues.