Dispute over licensing of Killarney passenger boats in High Court

Boatman who wants to operate two vessels seeks judicial review

A view of the lakes of  Killarney. File Photograph: Getty Images

A view of the lakes of Killarney. File Photograph: Getty Images

 

A dispute relating to the licensing of commercial passenger boats on the lakes of Killarney has come before the High Court.

Aidan O’Callaghan, a boatman of St Margaret’s, Killarney, says he has operated on the lower lake from Ross Castle to the Gap of Dungloe for some 40 years and has historically had the permission of the licensing authority to operate two boats there but is being told he may only operate one. There is no legal basis for that decision, he contends.

His counsel David Sutton SC secured leave from Mr Justice Seamus Noonan to bring judicial review proceedings in which it is alleged the legislation being cited as the basis for refusal of a licence for two boats does not apply.

In reply to the judge, counsel said Mr O’Callaghan is currently a sole applicant but his case has “a lot of importance” for other boat operators.

In his action, Mr O’Callaghan says he operates from Ross Castle to the Gap of Dungloe and hold a licence under the Merchant Shipping Act 2006 from the Department of Transport. He says he operates one boat, the “Margaret”, but wants to operate a second boat alongside that.

He claims the lower lake is contained in the area governed by the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act 1932 and is nominally controlled by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Commissioners of Public Works under that Act.

The lake has in recent times being managed under purported licensing authority of the Minister, he claims.

While he historically has had permission of the licensing authority to operate two boats, he claims a tender process of 2014 had led to his being informed his tender was deficient and he may legally only operate one boat.

Mr O’Callaghan says he was told in August 2014 he had a current permit to operate one boat based on a June 2014 letter from the office of the Minister for Arts but that letter had in fact used the expression “permit operation to operate two boats” and also enclosed a permit extension to May 2015 in respect of two boats.

His solicitor sought confirmation that his permit is for two boats but in December last he was informed, on foot of powers under the State Property Act 1954, that a licence was offered to operate one boat on the lakes. It was also stated he does not have a licence for two boats and there was no legal basis on which he could operate two boats.

Mr Sutton indicated the essential case being made was that there was no power to issue a boating licence under the State Property Act 1954 and his client is entitled to a licence for two boats under the Merchant Shipping Act.