Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Irish Are A Stubborn People And The Irish Taxpayer Will Pay For It

It's been five years since Lissadell House was closed to the public, after the new owners spent a small fortune to restore one of Ireland's most iconic houses. The Gore-Booth family that resided there at the time of the Rising figured prominently in the rebellion. Poet W.B. Yeats composed odes to the house and the ladies who lived there. That a modern family would invest heavily to restore the home and then open it to the public was of benefit to tourism in Sligo, which doesn't have much else for doing.
Constance Gore Booth, later Countess Markiewicz, scratched her name onto a window pane at Lissadell

Opening the house to the public was one thing, but with the Walsh-Cassidy family in residence, they wanted some portion of privacy that anyone might expect in their home. In other words, they didn't want anyone wandering around, peeking in the windows. You don't feel particularly safe, and you certainly don't feel that your children are secure.

The Sligo County Council determined that certain roads had been used by the public during the years when the house was falling into disrepair and no one much cared about it. The Gore-Booths granted access back in 1867, according to local lore. Therefore, the public had the right to use those same roads even if things had changed and the Walsh-Cassidys were investing heavily in the town. No special favors. Especially for the rich ones with the grand estate, lording their wealth over the local populace like the Protestant Ascendancy of yore.

The Walsh-Cassidys argued that one of those roads went right next to their house, and it made no sense to grant the public access to that degree. The Council stuck to its belief that the rights of way were "inferred", and so the public had to be allowed to walk where it pleased on a privately owned property.

The Sligo County Council would not budge and the Walsh-Cassidy family had no other choice but to turn to the courts for relief, all the way up to the Supreme Court. All five justices determined that the Sligo County Council was completely and utterly wrong. The rights claimed by the council, in fact, did not exist, nor had they ever existed from the 1860's but had commenced in the 1950s. Still, the council clung stubbornly to its belief through round after round of legal hearings and court dates.

Council member Joe Leonard demonstrated the stubborn refusal of the Irish to back down from something believed to be so, refused to back down even as legal opinion demonstrated the falsity of his belief. So stubborn is he that he insists the Supreme Court is wrong, and he is still as right as he was when he first made a motion to declare the rights of way through Lissadell as open to the public.

The taxpayers are now on the hook for some very, very, very hefty legal fees. Not only will they have to pay for the council's costs, but the court decided that they would cover 75% of the Walsh-Cassidy legal expenses.

Joe Leonard is not sorry. He is not apologizing. In fact, he has no regrets for what he did. He is right, and everyone else is wrong.

As for the people of Sligo, they don't have much and their local coffers have long been largely empty. There's a gaping hole that's been opened due to Irish stubbornness, and it will be up to them to fill it.

Meanwhile, the people who put so much into Lissadell, the family that invested with all good intentions, are no longer viewing Sligo through a prism of amity. They are bitter towards the council, for tormenting them for five long years, and all the apologies coming from the councillors cannot drown out Joe Leonard's insistence that he has nothing to apologize for.

The Irish are a stubborn people. Even if it costs the local populace  88 million that they don't have and don't really have any way to raise. While Joe Leonard stands proud and tall in defeat.

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