State to make submissions on residents' bid to halt developer case

Building firm has taken several legal actions against residents opposing development

The State has been joined to High Court proceedings in which eight Killiney residents claim that a developer's legal action against them is a bid to intimidate them.

The residents, who last year initiated proceedings aimed at overturning permission for a strategic 255 unit housing development by Atlas GP, a company in Pat Crean’s Marlet Group, claim a subsequent case by Atlas amounts to Slapp (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) litigation. Those claims are denied.

The High Court last week granted the State’s application to be joined, in light of its obligations under the Aarhus Convention on public participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters, as a notice party to the residents’ application to have the firm's case struck out on the basis they allegedly amount to Slapp litigation.

That matter will return before the court in April.


Atlas GP maintains its three High Court actions against some or all of the eight residents are legitimate and have been taken for reasons including to protect its right to its good name.

It took the cases since the residents initiated their challenge last September against An Bord Pleanála over its July 2021 permission for a 255 unit development at Church Road, Killiney.

Atlas, a notice party to the residents’ action, issued proceedings seeking damages and other orders against all eight over alleged defamation of the company in a leaflet seeking contributions from local people to help raise €60,000 towards funding litigation over the Church Road development.

The company claims the flyer, published by ‘Watson Killiney Residents Association’, contained false and inaccurate statements about it which meant, among other things, it was an irresponsible developer. The eight residents, it alleges, are the authors, or are connected to the authors, and/or are responsible for the flyer’s publication and distribution.

In its second case, also against all eight, Atlas wants injunctions restraining any steps in the judicial review because of alleged breach of the mediaeval doctrine of champerty and maintenance (aimed at preventing a disinterested party getting involved in litigation).

The judicial review is being funded by third parties with no legitimate interest in the proceedings, Atlas claims.

Its third case, against two of the eight, alleges a restrictive covenant of November 2000 prevents those two challenging the permission and it wants damages over alleged breach of the covenant.

Eoin Brady, of F.P. Logue Solicitors, who represent the residents, has claimed Atlas’ litigation is an example of Slapp litigation, used in the US and elsewhere to discourage environmental and other challenges.

Leman Solicitors, representing Atlas, have strongly rejected that claim.

The eight residents live on Church Road and Watson Road in Killiney. They did not oppose an earlier permission, granted to Atlas in 2018, for a smaller development of 102 units.

Atlas’ application to halt their case will be heard in May. In court documents, Pat Crean has said the “important background” to the proceedings is a housing crisis.

The ability to supply housing “is entirely undermined if decisions of the planning board are readily set aside by applicants relying on legal points which have little or no bearing in relation to their actual complaints”, he said.

This article was amended on February 22nd, 2022

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times