Boatman wins Skellig Michael landing permits case

Man took legal proceedings after Office of Public Works revoked his permits last year

Sean Feehan secured orders, on consent of the OPW, entitling him to apply on the same terms as others for landing permits on Skellig Michael

Sean Feehan secured orders, on consent of the OPW, entitling him to apply on the same terms as others for landing permits on Skellig Michael

 

A boatman has won orders on consent, and has also got the costs, of his High Court action against the Office of Public Works (OPW) over its revocation of permits allowing him land visitors at the Skellig Michael UNESCO world heritage site.

Sean Feehan secured orders, on consent of the OPW, entitling him to apply on the same terms as others for landing permits on Skellig Michael, a location for blockbuster movie Star Wars the Force Awakens.

The OPW manages the Skellig Michael site and issues permits on an annual basis permitting boat operators land passengers there.

Mr Feehan, of Dunegan, Ballinskelligs, who has taken visitors since 1980 to Skellig Michael, operating two boats from Ballinskelligs, received a letter from the OPW in January 2016 stating it was revoking two permits issued to him.

Mr Feehan, represented by Paul McGarry SC, argued there was no basis for such revocation and he took legal proceedings.

Full hearing

The full hearing of his case against the OPW was due to open before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys this week.

After the judge raised a number of issues with the parties as to how the dispute might be resolved, the parties adjourned for a brief period for discussions and reached an agreement.

On foot of that, the judge agreed to make orders on consent entitling Mr Feehan to apply for landing permits for Skellig Michael on the same terms as other applicants.

The OPW had previously undertaken not to issue the two permits in question pending the full case.

Wrongly conveyed

The judge also said he would award costs of the case to Mr Feehan for reasons including the OPW’s acceptance its January 2016 letter to Mr Feehan was not worded well and wrongly conveyed that he was not entitled to apply for landing permits.

In his action, Mr Feehan claimed the OPW, citing concern for visitors to Skellig Michael, told him in January 2016 it was revoking two permits issued to him arising from his pleading guilty at Cahirciveen District Court in September 2015 to three offences under the Merchant Shipping Act.

Mr Feehan claimed the offences, for which he was fined €850, were technical in nature and did not reflect his ability to safely land visitors and the permits revocation was unfair, invalid and unlawful.

Mr Feehan was convicted in 2012 of operating a vessel in a manner that might be dangerous to passengers having regard to the conditions in the waters between the mainland and the island; operating a vessel without an appropriate licence and failing to ensure the master of one of his boats was properly qualified.