‘Complex issues’ raised in Glenveagh’s €8m claim against Co Meath residents, says judge

Developer’s case not ‘manifestly unfounded’, says Mr Justice Richard Humphreys

Glenveagh’s highly contested €8 million claim against two Co Meath residents who have objected to many of its planning applications raises “complex issues”, a High Court judge has said.

In a judgment, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys explained why he refused to accede to a strike–out request from defendants Pat Lynch and Denise Leavy, both with addresses in Batterstown, Proudstown, Navan.

Ruling the matter should proceed to a full trial, the judge said the issues require “deeper investigation”, including disagreements of fact and whether the Aarhus convention, as part of EU law, provides the defendants with “absolute immunity from a suit of this nature”.

The judge said the problem for the defendants is that “if it was apparent that all they were doing was normal public-interest activity, then the case should indeed be struck out at this early stage” as an example of abusive strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP).


However, he said, Glenveagh’s central allegation is that Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy were attempting a “shake-down” for extortion, and if the extortion was successful they could make concerns in planning submissions “go away”. He said the action is not “manifestly unfounded”.

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The developer alleges the pair unlawfully abused the statutory planning process to interfere with its business, with the “predominant purpose of leveraging an improved bargain” for Mr Lynch in his bid to obtain better terms in selling 16 acres of his land to Glenveagh.

Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy strongly deny all of the claims against them and allege the action is an example of SLAPP and an abuse of process. The say the claim for €8 million damages is “purely designed to oppress private citizens”.

Glenveagh denies its case is SLAPP or designed to intimidate. It contends it is a response to the defendants’ use of “fictitious aliases” to make submissions and appeals “highly targeted” at its projects.

Given the factual disputes, Mr Justice Humphreys said, it would be “abstract”, “artificial” and “inappropriate” to deal with the legal questions in a “complete factual vacuum” at this early stage, as some of the points may or may not arise depending on factual findings.

He described as “misconceived” the defendants’ submission that “bizarrely, the plaintiff claims it is the victim of coercive behaviour by the defendants, an insurance consultant and a retired bank official”. If the court finds the defendants have made an abusive planning submission, then “the fact that they may be mild-mannered white-collar workers or retirees doesn’t change anything”, he said.

Some of their complaints simply go to the “innovative nature” of Glenveagh’s action, but do not establish it has no prospect of success, he added.

If a defendant shows an action against them is prima facie abusive, including because it is a SLAPP, a plaintiff must then show a reasonable basis for concluding it is bona fide, he said.

An imbalance of power between parties is one of a list of indications of a SLAPP, but it does not render litigation improper in itself, he said. For example, an individual or small group could be engaging in SLAPP tactics against a more powerful entity, such as a media organisation, to shut down criticism or scrutiny, he said.

Glenveagh’s case shows “only a few of the potential indicia of a SLAPP” and is not manifestly unfounded, the judge said.

He allowed it to proceed and made no order regarding the defendants’ legal costs related to their failed motion, and deferred determining the issue of Glenveagh’s costs.

The developer’s action alleges aliases “Denis Leavy”, “D Leavy”, “DM Leavy” and Mr Lynch filed 17 observations and five appeals of its planning applications between March 2021 and June 2023, most of which concern projects outside the defendants’ locality.

The defendants’ “campaign of tortious interference” has led to “considerable, unexpected difficulty” delivering residential schemes in Counties Meath, Dublin, Louth, Westmeath, Kildare and Waterford, Glenveagh says.

The firm says it had a little earlier refused to buy Mr Lynch’s Co Meath lands for a price “well in excess of open-market value”, but later reached an agreement in principle for a price of €7.8 million.

Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy “wholly reject” the developer’s “entirely groundless” claim. The objections had “no vexatious intent” and were made as per planning laws, said Mr Lynch in an affidavit.

Ms Leavy, in her sworn statement, said she owned one acre of land near Mr Lynch’s, and the price offered by Glenveagh for the lands was acceptable, but negotiations broke down. She denied submissions or appeals had been used to negotiate a higher land price, and took “grave exception” to the claim she had used a false identity.

Glenveagh wants the court to award damages, declare that the pair have unlawfully conspired to injure its business and make an order permanently restraining them from making further submissions on any Glenveagh development without High Court permission.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter