A newspaper vendor, who has sold millions of papers over almost 40 years from a four-wheeled buggy, has been told to “push off ” from his stand at the main entrance to Dún Laoghaire Shopping Centre.
Whether George Davis will continue spreading the news in the harbour town hangs on a court's attitude to evidence of a purported contract "agreed" by barristers John Peart, now a senior counsel, and Mary Finlay, now Appeal Court judge Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan.
Judge Francis Comerford was told in the Circuit Civil Court that solicitors involved in a late 1970s bid to shift Mr Davis from his George's Street site had been struck out by the High Court on foot of the settlement.
Barrister Mark O’Riordan, who appeared with Kenny Sullivan Solicitors for Mr Davis, told the judge the written agreement could not be found and had not been made an order of court at the time. Mr Davis and a number of staff who worked the pitch gave evidence to the court.
John Peart SC said that when the shopping centre was being built in the 1970s a hoarding around the construction site contained "an indentation" from which Mr Davis, of Hadleigh, Ballybride Road, Rathmichael, Dublin, continued to sell his papers to passersby.
He said the then Ms Finlay had drawn up an agreement which they both signed, stating that Mr Davis could sell his newspapers from the central entrance.
“It clearly gave Mr Davis a right to sell his newspapers at the front entrance only of the shopping centre for his lifetime,” Mr Peart told Mr O’Riordan. “The case was over. We went into court and had it struck out.”
The centre’s owner Coltard, which acquired it in 1998, plans a €10 million redevelopment of the centre involving the creation of two large anchor stores fronting on to Marine Road and George’s Street.
Raymond Delahunt, counsel for Coltard, told the court that at no time since 1998 had Mr Davis paid a rent to Coltard and his unauthorised use of the shopping centre entrance to sell papers had never been sanctioned by the company.
Mr Delahunt, who appeared with Baily Homan Smyth McVeigh Solicitors, said Mr Davis’s use of the property was no more than a mere licence which was revocable at Coltard’s option.
In July 2013 the company received a complaint from a tenant concerning Davis’s trolley-type structure and the fact that third parties, including cigarette smokers, regularly congregated at it causing obstruction of the entrance and fire exit.
Mr Delahunt said Coltard, considering the flammable nature of newspapers, had a genuine concern for the safety of its employees, customers and tenants. Mr Davis had twice been asked – and had refused – to vacate the property. Coltard was seeking court orders directing him to move on.
In a defence and counterclaim, Mr O’Riordan alleged Mr Davis had sold newspapers at the entrance for more than 38 years and held a lifelong irrevocable licence which he asked the court to affirm. Mr Davis also seeks an injunction restraining Coltard from interfering with his newspaper-vending pitch.
Judge Comerford has reserved judgment.