Judge erred over Lissadell right of way, court told

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 00:00

A High Court judge who ruled that there were public rights of way across the historic Lissadell estate in Co Sligo paid little regard to undisputed evidence showing there could not have been any intention by any of Lissadell’s owners to designate rights of way, the Supreme Court was told yesterday.

Brian Murray SC was opening an appeal by Lissadell’s owners, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, against Mr Justice Bryan McMahon’s December 2010 judgment.

They bought the estate in 2003 for €4 million and spent some €9.5 million restoring it.

Public access

Yesterday, Mr Murray argued that Mr Justice McMahon made “a fundamental error” in inferring a right of public access to the estate.

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, he argued. 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, counsel submitted.

Gore Booth family

Lissadell Estate was the home of the Gore-Booth family for some 400 years.

Yesterday, Mr Murray said that having heard evidence from witnesses about using the routes since the 1950s or in living memory, the judge justified his inference that a previous owner dedicated rights of way during 1857 to 1861 when the estate was held in trust for Sir Robert Gore-Booth and later for his son, Sir Robert Newcombe-Gore-Booth, who died unmarried at age 26.

If a right of way was designated as found, then an event of “immense historical interest” had occurred in which the private landowner of one of the country’s largest estates had “in an act of unprecedented munificence” dedicated rights of way, counsel said.

The appeal continues.