xx | 24.07.2007 16:52 | Rossport Solidarity
Earlier this morning members of the Rossport Solidarity Camp and several local supporters arrived at Castlebar Circuit Court on foot of a Court Order issued by Judge Donagh McDonagh last Friday 20th of July. This order cited Rossport Solidarity Camp was an unauthorised development in a Candidate Area of Special Conservation.
Eoin O’Leidhin was the only one of the three people named on the court order present at the hearing. Mayo Co. Council was granted an application to have Niall Harnett added as an extra respondent/defendant to the injunction when he submitted a statement representing the camp’s position. Judge Harvey Kenny put the case back to the afternoon so that members of the camp could consult with the Co. Council representatives and their solicitor Michael Browne.
When the court reconvened, John Kiely JC, outline the councils case. Mr Kiely stated that the camp has caused “irreparable damage” at the site and that the camp was “an unauthorised development” contrary to the Planning Act of 2000 section 160. He informed the court that the council’s decision to act was due to a report from Karen Gaynor of the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and not because of “greater and better” issues regarding the camps participation in the Shell to Sea Campaign.
Mr Kiely countered Niall Harnett’s argument that the council failed to give warning [of the councils intention to seek eviction] stating that “this is a nullity under section 3” of the Planning act.
Speaking about the residents of the camp Mr Kiely stated that they were “genuine protesters and conscientious objectors to progress”. He acknowledged the many precautions taken by the camp to minimise the footprint of the camp but argued that had “Joe Blogs been in front of the court he would be treated the same way. He pointed out that the council had an obligation to enforce the planning laws and that the court “with a heavy heart” had to deal with many travellers in the same situation.
In response, Niall Harnett, who represented the Solidarity Camp, disputed the council’s claims of irreparable damage and that authorisation of the site was “implicit in the communication and co-operation between the camp and the NPWS”. Niall told the court that the camp had carried out the recommendations set out by the service. Niall referred to an independent impact statement that was included in a statement that he had earlier handed up to the Judge. This report by, Bob Wilson, a director of Celt – Centre for Environment Living & Training and the Clare Biodiversity group stated that he is confident that the vegetation would soon take hold again.
Taking issue with the urgency of the council’s action Niall told the court that the camp had just received the papers on Friday and that the camp had not time to seek legal advice. He pointed out that the council stated that they had expected large numbers to attend the camp at the weekend but numbers were relatively small at the camp over the weekend.
In his argument Niall told the court that the camp had not been consulted or warned about the councils intent to seek a court order. Niall said, “that although Agenda 21 had not been ratified in law… it is council policy” and that consultation is a principle of Agenda 21. Niall also stated that the council’s solicitor Michael Browne had accepted that short notice was given. Niall then told the court that the order was inappropriate.
Niall requested to read his statement in to evidence for the court but the judge told him that the important points were made and that it may take some time to read.
Niall accepted that the site did not have planning permission but told the court “it is a genuine claim that we didn’t know” that the camp “was not an authorised development”.
Judge Kenny suggested that there was no getting over the planning permission barrier. In an act of goodwill Niall invited Judge Kenny to visit the camp.
John Kiely JC assumed that Niall was making an application to adjourn the case and said that he could see the court giving “liberal time” to seek legal advice. He went on to question the credentials of Bob Wilson and reiterated the council’s position that the camp was an unauthorised development.
Niall Harnett concluded that the “balance of harm was a test for any injunction” and that the harm to those living on the camp and would be greater.
Judge Kenny agreed that short notice was given. Judge Kenny stated, “that they were entitled to some breathing space” but would not concede to Niall’s request to putting the case back to after the courts summer break. Before he rose Judge Kenny ensured that the council undertook not to act on the interim court order before the next court sitting. Judge Kenny adjourned the case to next Tuesday 31st of July 2007 when he will make his ruling on the matter.