'Achill-henge' demolition sought


Mayo County Council is seeking a High Court order compelling property developer Joe McNamara to demolish a 'Stonehenge-like structure' built as a 'place of reflection' on Achill Island.

An application received earlier this week from Mr McNamara to have the structure declared exempted development was regarded by the council as not valid as "we still don't know what it is", Pat Butler SC, for the council, said.

Mr McNamara, who previously came to prominence over an incident in which a cement mixer lorry with the words "toxic bank" emblazoned on it was driven at the gates of Leinster House, was freed from prison on Monday after being jailed by the court last Friday for contempt of court orders requiring work to immediately cease on the structure.

The council claims the structure, which consists of an outer ring of 30 large columns with tapping stones placed on top, is an unauthorised development built without permission close to a protected archaeological site.

Mr McNamara (41), with addresses at Achill Island and Salthill, Co Galway, has contended the structure does not require planning permission because it is an exempted development within the meaning of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001.

Mr McNamara was asked by the council's planning officers last week to stop the unauthorised works but continued with them.

The council then brought proceedings against Mr McNamara and secured orders on November 26th last requiring him to cease the works. It claimed works continued after he was served with those orders and then initiated the proceedings for attachment and committal of Mr McNamara.

Mr Justice Murphy found Mr McNamara had continued work on the structure despite being properly served with the order to cease those works and made an order committing him to Mountjoy prison for four days.

Today, when the matter returned before the court, Pat Butler SC, for the council, sought an early hearing date for its application to compel Mr McNamara to demolish the structure.

Mr Butler said the council wanted to progress matters in a substantial way. Earlier this week, it had received an application under Section 5 of the Planning Act to have the structure deemed as an exempted development.

Mr Butler said the council took the view at this stage that application was not valid as the council did not know what the structure was and there were no drawings included with the submission.

The council also expressed concerns about serving Mr McNamara with the proceedings as it had been indicated to them he had contemplated leaving the country.

Mr McNamara's solicitor Peter Keane said his client had "no intention of absconding" and "would face up to his responsibilities." Mr McNamara had intended to visit Switzerland where his partner and children reside but had always appeared at court, Mr Keane said.

Since becoming aware of the orders against him, Mr McNamara had given a number of undertakings not to continue work on the structure which had been complied with, Mr Keane added.

Mr Mc Namara had applied to the Council seeking to have the structure deemed exempt from planning permission and the Council had up to four weeks to decide on the application. While the application was vague, it was up to the Council to ask for further information, Mr Keane added.

Mr Justice Murphy said it was unlikely the case could be heard before Christmas and adjourned the matter to tomorrow for the purposes of fixing a hearing date.

The judge noted Mr McNamara's undertakings that no further work will be carried out on the site and Mr McNamara's solicitors will accept any documents served on their client by the council.