17 Aug 2022

Minister for Justice takes farmer to High Court over prison site

High Court in Dublin

High Court in Dublin

The Minister for Justice has brought High Court proceedings against a farmer whose cattle have allegedly been trespassing on land in Dublin that was earmarked for a new prison.  

Minister Charlie Flanagan's Department of Justice has brought proceedings against James Scully, from Kilreesk Lane, St Margarets, Dublin whose livestock have allegedly trespassed on 156 acres of agricultural land known as Thornton Hall.

The lands are owned by the Minister. Since 2005 the State has spent over €50m on the site, where a proposed new 'super prison' was to be built, but never proceeded. 

In a sworn affidavit on behalf of the Minister the court heard that Mr Scully's animals have been grazing on the lands for several months. 

Last February the Irish Prison Service was informed that on several occasions cattle had strayed from the Thornton Hall lands onto the property of a neighbouring landowner.

Cattle also stayed onto the road almost causing a collision.  

The Minister never gave permission allowing any party place livestock on the lands. 

As a result of what occurred the Minister spent €21,000 on works, including the erection of fences, steel gates concrete bollards, and repairs to the damage to the neighbours' lawns around the property.  

Notwithstanding those works Mr Scully, it is claimed, continued to trespass on the lands by allowing his livestock to graze there. 

The court heard that the Minister wrote to Mr Scully calling on him to remove his livestock from the property. 

Mr Scully had failed to respond, but it is claimed instead gave an interview to the Irish Independent Newspaper where he admitted placing animals on the lands without liaising with the Minister. 

Mr Scully also told the newspaper "what harm could be done by the animals grazing down grass as the land has been idle for 15 years."

The court also heard that the Minister has entered into a lease agreement with another party in respect of the lands.  

However, the other party has been prevented from entering onto the lands and using them for agricultural purposes due to the defendant's continued trespass.

The Minister, represented by David McGrath SC and Elizabeth Donovan Bl, seeks various High Court orders against Mr Scully including one prohibiting the defendant from trespassing on the lands, and that he remove all his livestock from the property.

The Minister also seeks a declaration from the Court that Mr Scully is trespassing on the Minister's lands. 

The matter came before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds on Monday, who on an ex parte basis granted the Minister's lawyers permission to serve short notice of the proceedings on Mr Scully. 

The Judge said that she was not prepared to grant an injunction against Mr Scully at this stage, as the Minister had been aware of matters for several months before bringing proceedings. 

The Judge adjourned the matter to later this week.

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