Developer jailed over 'Stonehenge' on Achill

 

PROPERTY DEVELOPER Joe McNamara has been jailed until Tuesday by a High Court judge for contempt of an order to stop building a “Stonehenge-like structure” which he intends to be a “place of reflection” on Achill Island.

Mr McNamara, who was acquitted earlier this year after he drove a cement mixer with the words “toxic bank” at the gates of Leinster House, was asked by Mayo County Council’s planning officers last week to stop the unauthorised works in Achill, but he continued with the project.

The council then brought proceedings against Mr McNamara (41), Achill Island, Co Mayo, and Salthill, Co Galway, and secured orders on November 26th last requiring him to stop the works.

It claimed works continued after he was served with those orders and that it then initiated proceedings for attachment and committal of Mr McNamara.

After hearing from the sides yesterday, Mr Justice Roderick Murphy found Mr McNamara had continued work on the structure, an outer ring of large columns with tapping stones placed on top, despite being served with the order to cease those works.

The failure to comply was “a serious matter”, he said. Planning laws were in place for a good reason and were not designed to thwart people, he added.

As Mr McNamara was not prepared to purge his contempt, he was to remain in Mountjoy Prison until Tuesday, the judge said.

Pat Butler SC, for the council, said it was prepared to ask the court not to jail Mr McNamara if he would give an undertaking that the structure would be removed within a given period, but Mr McNamara’s solicitor, Declan Keane, said his client was not prepared to give such an undertaking.

Earlier, Mr Butler said the council obtained an injunction last Saturday requiring Mr McNamara to stop work on the structure, the nature of which remained unclear.

“We still don’t know what it is,” he said.

A letter containing the order was delivered to a hotel on Achill owned by Mr McNamara last Saturday night and he was hand-delivered the order on Sunday, Mr Butler said.

About 24 concrete columns had already been built at that stage.

Last Monday, six more columns had been erected and it was clear Mr McNamara had continued works after being served with the order, Mr Butler added.

Mr McNamara opposed the council’s application on grounds including that he was unaware of the contents of the order because he had put the envelope in the back of his vehicle and had not read it until “later that night”.

He apologised for his actions before reading the order and said he had carried out no further works since Sunday evening.

He accepted he was the owner of the hotel where the order was delivered but said he did not live there. He had given an undertaking last Wednesday to stop working on the structure and had complied with that, he said.

He further claimed the structure was exempted from the Planning and Development Regulations 2001.