Lissadell House - Sale and Access Dispute

Sale and Access Dispute

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In 2003, the house was put up for sale by the then owner, Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth (a grand-nephew of the original Josslyn Gore-Booth), for €3 million. Despite celebrities including U2 lead singer Bono, broadcaster Gerry Ryan and politician Mary O'Rourke showing an interest in the property, it was hoped that it would be purchased by the state. However, due to several stumbling blocks including Dáil (Government) holidays and an inaccurate cost report, the house was eventually sold to a private couple, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy. Over the course of seven years the new owners, independent of any monetary assistance from the State, restored the house and gardens and continued public access to the house, while limiting public rights of way. The owners appeared on numerous occasions in the media including on the Late Late Show where they were widely praised.

On a motion put by Councillor Joe Leonard, in December 2008 Sligo County Council voted to preserve public rights of way that it contended existed on the estate. This was after the owners blocked access not only to the grounds but also to the popular beach bordering the grounds which would been effectively been privatized. The owners refused all attempts at conciliation before the legal route was taken. The house's closure was announced on 8th January 2009 due to this dispute with Sligo County Council. The owners instituted legal proceedings against the Council to have it declared that there are no dedicated public rights of way over the estate. The owners have indicated that they would not be re-opening Lissadell if the council won the court action. The 58-day-long hearings ended in June 2010, with legal costs for both sides estimated at €6m.

On December 20, 2010, the High Court ruled in favour of the Council and public rights of way must now be reopened. During the case testimony was given by staff formerly working for the Gore-Booth family that the right of way was recognized and supported by the former owners. Sligo County Council stated that 'this issue could and should have been resolved locally by negotiation.' This is the second occasion that the State has damaged Lissadell. In the 1950s and 1960s officials of the State thrashed the woodlands by clearing the forestry and not replanting any trees. It could also be argued however that the current owners are damaging the Estate by being belligerent over the public interest entitlement in Lissadell as the Courts have found.

While public right of way is technically allowed the single lane road is very deeply cratered and tightly bound by high fences with many notices relating to private property erected along the way. It is quite difficult for those outside the area to find the entry points as no signs visible from the road are displayed.

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