Men face prison for failing to vacate lands owned by Clare County Council

McDonagh family has had mobile homes and caravans on Cahercallamore site since 2018

The High Court has ruled that two men should be committed to prison for failing to comply with orders to vacate lands owned by Clare County Council. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The High Court has ruled that two men should be committed to prison for failing to comply with orders to vacate lands owned by Clare County Council. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The High Court has ruled that two men should be committed to prison for failing to comply with orders to vacate lands owned by Clare County Council.

Ms Justice Siobhán Stack held that Michael McDonagh and Bernard McDonagh Snr, members of the Irish Traveller Community, were in contempt of an injunction granted requiring them and their families to vacate a site at Cahercallamore, Ennis.

The council, which brought the proceedings, says that several mobile homes and caravans occupied by members of the McDonagh family have been on the site since 2018.

The McDonagh family, who the council said had no entitlement to be on the lands, had built a road and a courtyard on the site which the local authority said were in breach of planning laws.

Neither man was present in court for the ruling. A letter was handed into the court stating that they had left the county due to a family member having a medical emergency in the UK. However, the court held that the McDonaghs were in ongoing breach of orders obtained by the council in 2019.

It secured an injunction restraining the McDonaghs, and all other persons having notice of the making of the order, from placing and retaining their caravans, vehicles and associated property at Cahercallamore.

Appeal dismissed

The McDonaghs appealed the High Court’s decision to grant the injunction to the Court of Appeal, which dismissed the appeal and placed a stay on the injunction from coming into force until the end of May.

Arising out of their failure to comply with the order and vacate the site, the council, represented by James Connolly SC with David Quinn BL, brought a motion seeking the attachment and committal of several members of the McDonagh family including Bernard and Michael.

Counsel said that despite the injunction some five mobile homes and one caravan, occupied by members of the McDonagh family, are currently located on the site.

Counsel said his client, which has made offers of housing to the McDonaghs, was also sceptical of the reasons given by the defendants for the non-attendance in court.

The McDonaghs, who were not legally represented during the proceedings, had opposed the application against them, on grounds including that they had nowhere else to go.

Traveller advocate Heather Rosen spoke on the McDonagh’s behalf and said that the defendants had been asked to come to England so they could learn from the doctor about their ill relative’s medical condition.

The McDonaghs living on the site had nowhere else to go and were in urgent need of suitable housing, she said.

She urged the court to put a stay on any committal order, as they wished to continue to challenge the High Court’s decision to grant the council an injunction.

Ms Justice Stack said she was prepared to make the orders sought by the council. She said that she was not prepared to adjourn matters and shared the council’s scepticism regarding the McDonagh’s non-attendance in court.

The judge said that they had been present when the matter was before her, and she had informed them then that this matter had come to the end.

In the circumstances she was prepared to make attachment and committal orders against Michael McDonagh and Bernard McDonagh Snr and dismissed the application for a stay on that order due to their failure to come to court.

Took no pleasure

Ms Justice Stack said that she took no pleasure in making orders, and added that the two men could purge their contempt at any time by agreeing to comply the orders.

The judge agreed to the councils’ request to adjourn attachment and committal proceedings against other members of the McDonagh family who remain on the lands and are also alleged to be in contempt of court.

The council’s action against the McDonaghs arose out of related proceedings where the council sought to have the McDonagh’s vacate another site in Ennis, which they had previously resided at before it was destroyed by a fire in 2012.

The council, which claimed the site was unsuitable, brought High Court proceedings against the McDonaghs in 2017 over their presence at that location.

The McDonaghs eventually moved from that site to the site at Cahercallamore in August 2018, resulting in the council’s taking another set of High Court proceedings.