Ó Cuív joins Ashford Castle protest


FIANNA Fáil deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív joined an estimated 150 people from the Cong area in a protest over a right of way through Ashford Castle hotel on the Galway-Mayo border last night.

The peaceful demonstration along the right of way through the castle grounds took place in spite of a High Court injunction secured yesterday by the castle’s owner.

Mr Ó Cuív said that he had contacted the castle about three weeks ago over the situation and had received no response.

“The county council is satisfied that this is a public right of way, and local people, who are very peaceful, are very concerned about this, given their long relationship with the castle and the fact that lands are owned by Coillte and leased to the castle for 99 years,” he added.

Lawyers for the world-famous hotel and estate told the High Court earlier yesterday that there was a danger the protesters would block the estate’s entrances, roadways and bridges, causing severe disruption to guests, staff and patrons of the hotel.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy granted Ashford Castle Estate Ltd and Ashford Castle Properties Ltd a temporary injunction against Hugh Lavelle, Cong, Co Mayo, and Síle Gibbons, Quiet Man Cafe, Main Street, Cong, who, the court was told, are the chairman and secretary of Cong Community Council.

The injunctions prohibit the defendants, and anyone else aware of the orders, from obstructing the entrance, roadways and bridges at the Ashford Castle estate.

The orders also prevent the same parties from interfering with or obstructing the movement of those accessing, exiting or moving within the confines of the estate. The orders were granted on an ex-parte basis (one side only) and were made returnable to early next week.

Senior counsel James Dwyer, appearing with John Kiely for Ashford Castle, said the dispute arose out of a decision taken during the Quiet Man festival in August last.

During that event, in order to protect guests and patrons at the hotel, management at Ashford Castle restricted traffic and closed and manned a number of gates on the estate.

A group of people including members of the community council held an hour-long protest against the gates’ closure in early September. Counsel said the group consisted of 30 people as well as 12 cars and blocked a bridge close to the gates near the helipad. This, counsel said, “caused great inconvenience to guests and staff at the hotel”. Gardaí were called and the protesters agreed to move on, counsel said.

Cong Community Council had organised a protest for last night and had called on local radio for interested people to participate, counsel said