‘Last chance’ to clean up illegal Donegal dump not taken

Court adjourns for order directing Garda to arrest Jim Ferry and take him to jail for contempt

Jim Ferry: he said the suggestion that on July 29th the entrance to the site “was partially blocked to delay the fire service entering the site is totally untrue”

When Donegal County Council waste regulation officer Matthew Byrne went to illegal dumper Jim Ferry's site at Rossbracken outside Letterkenny last Thursday, he could find no evidence that Mr Ferry was complying with a High Court order of last April to clean the place up.

On July 28th, Mr Ferry had been given "one last chance" by Mr Justice Max Barrett, but had not taken it.

In fact, the site was an even larger mess than when Mr Byrne and other waste enforcement officers first went there in November 2016 and discovered that Mr Ferry, a licensed collector of household and other refuse in Donegal, had created a vast illegal dump, filled with up to 36,170 tons of waste, most of it hidden.

The waste had been buried secretly at locations around the 11-acre site or was stored in sheds. It was supposed to have been disposed of legally, via licensed landfills or by incineration sent for recycling.


Although Mr Ferry’s customers had paid for their waste to be disposed of legally, Mr Ferry had instead dumped it illegally and pocketed their money – an estimated €3.36 million based just on what was found at Rossbracken.

Fire brigade

The day after Mr Ferry’s “one last chance” a fire broke out in a shed containing at least 1,000 tons of waste ordered removed by the High Court, along with another estimated 1,000 tons strewn about outside the shed, which has also been ordered removed.

When the fire brigade went to put out the fire, Donegal County Council's barrister Richard Lyons SC told Mr Justice Barrett that the back entrance to the site was partially blocked.

“The front entrance had a wall,” he said before Mr Ferry interrupted him.

“That’s not true,” he said, standing up in the body of the court. “That’s not true.”

“Will you please sit down?” interjected Mr Lyons.

“But it’s not true,” said Mr Ferry, sitting down.

However, the court heard sworn evidence that it was true.

“I’ll show you photographs, judge,” said Mr Lyons. “You’ll see a wall of concrete blocks at the front of the premises which blocked the fire tenders, impeded their access to the premises [and] when they got there the reservoir which dealt with this area was drained of water. Notwithstanding that, they managed to get the fire under control.”

Concrete blocks

Supporting evidence came in an affidavit from one of Mr Byrne’s council colleagues, senior engineer for Donegal water and environmental services Con McLaughlin, who visited the site on the day of the fire. “Bales of concrete blocks had been placed in the yard which prevented access to the shed,” he said.

“We have come to the stage where Mr Ferry is thumbing his nose at the court,” Mr Lyons told Mr Justice Barrett.

“He is in flagrant breach of the court order. He is wilfully refusing to do anything about it, and he’s crying poverty with absolutely no back up to say what he has done with the millions of euro that he has saved [by dumping illegally].

“He has made no effort at all to indicate where that money has gone to...It is going to cost the County Council, or rather the taxpayer of Ireland, in excess of €4.5 million to remediate the [Rossbracken] site.

“Notwithstanding the order of April 25th, little if anything has been removed from the site. Little if anything.”

As Tuesday’s proceedings began, Mr Ferry, who has represented himself throughout, walked into court and dropped an affidavit on the court registrar’s desk. In it he claimed that if another waste company, Wers of Tuam in Co Galway, was allowed to use the Rossbracken site, “they would commence removal of the shed waste immediately”.The council was “ignoring this solution”, he claimed.

He also swore that the suggestion that on July 29th the entrance to the site “was partially blocked to delay the fire service entering the site is totally untrue”.

What Mr Ferry was suggesting as a solution was “totally unworkable”, said Mr Lyons. “The problem [at Rossbracken] is entirely of his own making.”

Drafting of order

Mr Justice Barrett agreed. He adjourned the court to allow for the drafting of an order directing the Garda to arrest Mr Ferry and take him to jail for contempt.

The judge said he would review matters on October 9th, but in the meantime, Mr Ferry could purge his contempt at any time by complying with the April order and telling the court, or the council could tell the court, the order had been complied with.

Adjourning the case, the judge asked was there a garda available.

Outside the court minutes later, as lawyers and council officials stood around chatting, the court registrar emerged to ask for Mr Ferry.

He was nowhere to be seen.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times