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Howth Castle owner calls on council to erect barbed wire fence to protect estate

Fence needed to protect 191-hectare site from vandalism, fires and abuse of staff, Michael McElligott says

Tetrarch bought the estate, close to Howth harbour and village, in 2019 and has since lodged a number of planning applications for it

The owner of the Howth Castle estate has appealed to Fingal County Council to erect 6ft, barbed wire-topped fencing around his land following incidents of vandalism, fires, illegal dumping and abuse of staff.

Michael McElligott, chief executive of development company Tetrarch, has written to the council and councillors outlining a litany of antisocial and illegal activity on the vast 191-hectare site, which includes Howth Castle and the former Deer Park Hotel.

Tetrarch bought the estate, close to Howth harbour and village, in 2019 and has since lodged several planning applications for it. Most recently, the council granted planning permission for a €10 million redevelopment of Howth Castle to transform it into a retail, food and tourist destination.

The company has also sought permission for a 142-bedroom hotel on the site of the former Deer Park Hotel, which is currently being used to accommodate Ukrainian families. It also has plans for a cemetery.


Tetrarch had asked the council to rezone part of the amenity lands for housing so it could build a retirement community and affordable housing, but the council last year rejected the application.

Mr McElligott said there has been a recent escalation in antisocial behaviour on the lands, including at least two incidents where gardaí had to be called.

In one, he wrote, a woman member of staff was subjected to “abusive and intimidating language” from a group of five or six men who entered the estate at night and lit a large fire in a wooded area and were drinking alcohol.

“They refused her request to leave the estate, claiming they had a right of way to access the estate through the boundary fencing,” the letter states.

In another recent incident, up to 75 cars were driven on the land with their drivers performing doughnut stunts. Again the incident was reported to Gardaí.

The land, which is popular with walkers, is also subject to frequent illegal dumping involving large quantities of “natural and unnatural waste” in several areas, he said, “most of which have been accessed through the defective boundary fencing”. Public access is provided to the estate “at various dedicated access points – this occurs at our discretion” with most people using these routes in a “respectful manner”, Mr McElligott wrote.

“Regrettably, this does not occur in all cases and we have an ongoing issue with the estate being accessed through defective fencing along parts of the boundary.” In some cases locks are cut and removed from gates, he said.

Mr McElligott said that, under a 1972 agreement, the council is obliged to erect and maintain 6ft fencing “with barbed wire on top” but has failed to do so. He said “we require that the fencing is erected/remediated by the council to the standard required by the conveyance without delay”.

Local Green Party councillor David Healy said while he would not deny there was some antisocial behaviour on the land, “putting up fences is not the solution”. Independent councillor Jimmy Guerin said fencing the area would “cost an arm and a leg” and would likely antagonise the community.

When asked by The Irish Times if it would install or repair the fences, the council said it had been made aware of “issues relating to boundary fencing which surrounds their property”.

“Where we have been informed of illegal dumping, this has been referred to our enforcement teams to investigate further,” it said.

“In the instance of staff employed by the owners being threatened, this remains a matter for An Garda Síochána.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times