Group opposing Hellfire Club development resolves action against Sipo

Sipo agreed to withdraw referral of case to Garda

Last May, Sipo had decided to refer the matter to the Garda. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Last May, Sipo had decided to refer the matter to the Garda. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

A residents’ group’s challenge to a decision by the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) Commission to refer to gardaí an alleged breach of political lobbying law over opposition to a plan to build an interpretive centre at Dublin’s Hellfire Club has been resolved.

The High Court action was brought by a group called Save the Hellfire / Hellfire and Massys Wood Residents’ Association, who oppose South Dublin Co Council’s plan to develop a €22 million interpretive centre at Irish Hellfire Club in the Dublin mountains.

In 2018 the residents’ association found itself subject of an investigation by the Sipo as to whether the campaign against the development was a political campaign and therefore subject to rules that any funding over €100 must be declared.

Sipo decided the residents’ activities came within the Electoral Act and requested it to provide details of its donors.

Last May, Sipo decided to refer the matter to the Garda due to what it claimed was a lack of co-operation from the residents over requests for information about funding.

As a result, the group brought judicial review proceedings against Sipo, Ireland and the Attorney General seeking an order quashing the Sipo’s decision of May 23rd last to refer the matter to the Garda.

The matter returned before the court on Tuesday when Cian Ferriter SC, with John Kenny BL, for Save the Hellfire/Hellfire and Massys Wood Residents Association told Mr Seamus Noonan, with the consent of the parties, the proceedings could be struck out after Sipo had agreed to withdraw the referral.

Sipo had also agreed to pay his client’s costs, counsel said.

The judge then struck out the action.

Previously the court heard the residents’ group had no political affiliations and opposition to a planning application could not be considered to be opposition to a political function of the council.

The group said its sole purpose is to oppose the council’s planning application. It said it was not engaged in a political campaign and Sipo had no jurisdiction to require it to provide details of donors.

The group argued that it could not produce details of donors because it did not know their identities.

Sipo’s referral, it also claimed was a restriction on the right of non-governmental organisations to participate in the planning process.

The group claimed the proposed development at the Hellfire Club is an inappropriate commercial development which will damage a fragile environment and ecosystem.

A former hunting lodge on Montpellier Hill in the Dublin mountains, it was one of the meeting places for the 18th-century Irish Hellfire Club which was said to be known for its debauchery and possible satanic worship.