Man alleged to have interfered with Co Westmeath heritage area

High Court told scrap metal, fuel and cuttings of invasive species found on Milltownpass Bog

A man alleged to have breached an order not to interfere with lands designated as a National Heritage Area is to be brought before the High Court over his alleged contempt. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

A man alleged to have breached an order not to interfere with lands designated as a National Heritage Area is to be brought before the High Court over his alleged contempt. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

A man alleged to have breached an order not to interfere with lands designated as a National Heritage Area (NHA) is to be brought before the High Court over his alleged contempt.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service claims Daragh Coyne has engaged in activities that have damaged Milltownpass Bog in Co Westmeath, which has been a designated NHA for several years.

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who is responsible for the service, previously obtained temporary injunctions preventing Mr Coyne from carrying out unauthorised works on, or interfering with, the lands. The court heard that Mr Coyne, of Coralstown, Mullingar, denies any wrongdoing.

The Minister and a member of Mr Coyne’s family own the lands where the illegal activities are alleged to have occurred, the court heard. It is claimed that he has not complied with that order and another order to remove a gate erected on an old turf cutters track, which is on the Minister’s lands.

Contempt

As a result of the alleged failures, the service is seeking that Mr Coyne be brought before the court by gardaí to answer the contempt claim. If the court finds he is in contempt, Mr Coyne faces the prospect of jail.

Ms Justice Mary Rose Gearty on Friday directed that Mr Coyne be brought before the court next week. The judge was satisfied that Mr Coyne, who was not in court or represented, had been served with the relevant legal documents and was aware of the application.

In sworn statements to the court, wildlife rangers from the service said they found piles on the lands containing gardening waste including cherry laurel, a highly invasive species, scrap metal and several large unsealed plastic oil tanks.

Mr Coyne, they say, did not have permission from the Minister to put these materials on the site and the activity has damaged the NHA as it reduced the foraging habitat for protected birds and pollinators that nest there.

When questioned by the rangers at his business premises, Mr Coyne denied dumping the material on the site. The rangers also said in their affidavits that they were concerned turf would be extracted from the NHA, as they had seen turf cutting equipment stored close to the where the material had been dumped.

While Mr Coyne said he was not using the equipment, the rangers said he had last year engaged a contractor to cut turf on the NHA, and expressed their belief the would do so again. Peat extraction from the bog has been prohibited since 2017, the court heard.