Children of Lissadell emerge smiling after belated court victory

Owners not present to witness conclusion of protracted case

Members of the Cassidy/Walsh family after the family’s Supreme Court win yesterday, from left: Jane, Constance, Elanor, Harry, Kate, Eddie and John. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Members of the Cassidy/Walsh family after the family’s Supreme Court win yesterday, from left: Jane, Constance, Elanor, Harry, Kate, Eddie and John. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 02:00

Notably absent were barristers Constance Cassidy and Edward Walsh themselves, who paid €4 million for Lissadell, and a further €9.5 million in restoring the estate and gardens.

The judgment lasted a bare five minutes, and was delivered so quietly that it was occasionally drowned out when the courtroom door opened to admit yet another person to the already-crowded room.

Lest anyone present be in any doubt about what the case was about, a large colour-coded map of the estate and surrounding area was taped to the courtroom wall, with photographs of the disputed areas of access overlaid on it.

The findings of the 116-page judgment were summarised in less than two pages yesterday morning, and ruled that no public rights of way existed across most of four routes through the estate. It overruled the previous High Court findings on the case between Lissadell’s owners and Sligo County Council, which had lasted 58 days, and which found that rights of way had existed.

The Walsh siblings looked around the courtroom with wide smiles and palpable excitement, while additional family members conferred with them and each other. Also present yesterday were two of Constance Cassidy’s sisters, Pamela and Isobel.

Seven children
It was the seven children who led the way out of the Four Courts some time after the ruling to meet the waiting press. Elanor Walsh, the eldest daughter, read a short statement on behalf of her family.

They were very happy with the findings, she told reporters. The only right of way which the court had upheld was “along the seafront at the Alpine garden, which we have always permitted”, she stated.

“The last five years have been a very difficult time for Lissadell and us as a family,” she said, adding that they were “now going to take time to decide what the future will hold both for ourselves and Lissadell”.

When asked why their parents had not been in court themselves, a point that was not covered in the statement, she said that both parents had been working that morning.

This is not quite the end of the protracted Lissadell court cases. Costs associated with the case, currently estimated to be running at €7 million, have yet to be decided. Given the ruling yesterday, it seems likely that Sligo County Council will be liable for substantial costs at a future date.

Council statement
The council issued its own statement “to express its disappointment” at the ruling. They stated that they had had “no option but to defend the proceedings issued by Mr Walsh and Ms Cassidy. The council did everything it reasonably could to achieve such a resolution including proposing to the owners the appointment of a mediator and the referral of the matter for consideration by the respective senior counsel. All its proposals were rejected by the owners who made it clear that they wanted the issue dealt with by the courts.”

Lissadell, the council said, “is a beautiful place of major historical and cultural significance. Our hope is that it will continue to play an important role in the heritage and tourism sectors.”

Among the developments the owners had carried out prior to the court proceedings, when effectively all activity stopped, were an exhibition centre in the former coach house and a popular tearoom. The estate was also the venue for two high-profile concerts by Leonard Cohen. People in Sligo and beyond interested in Lissadell’s historic and literary links will undoubtedly be curious as to what will happen there next.