Sinn Fein councillor Jack Murray had been advised by council officials that he couldn’t include the issue of a new sewage pipe proposal for Moville at a meeting of the Inishowen Electoral Area.
So he asked council officials for a copy of the legal advice they were given.
But yesterday at the county council meeting, he still hadn’t received it.
The ongoing dispute over a waste water treatment plant in Moville is now in the High Court as campaigners seek a judicial review of a decision to give it the go-ahead.
But the completely separate issue on the compulsory purchase of local man Dan McGuinness’s land on the peninsula had been banned from discussion at the Inishowen Electoral Area meeting earlier this month.
Sinn Fein councillor Jack Murray has been warned that he couldn’t discuss the issue because he has been told it is sub judice – in other words prejudicial to the High Court case which is heard before a judge.
That has been disputed by Mr McGuinness and his solicitor who say the compulsory purchase of his land is not included in the court proceedings and therefore can be discussed by locally elected representatives.
So Cllr Murray put in a written request to County Council civil servants asking for the details of the legal advice which had effectively silenced him in his support of Mr McGuinness.
Despite this, he has still not been given the written legal advice he had asked for.
A County Council response, which did not provide the written legal advice, reads: “The acquisition of land from Mr McGuinness is for the purpose of construction Moville/Greencastle Sewerage Scheme. The approval for the scheme is currently the subject of judicial review proceedings before the High Court.
“This proposed acquisition is directly linked to the scheme and whilst it is not the subject of the proceedings it has been advised that it would not be appropriate to discuss the matter while the proceedings are before the High Court. Clearly the outcome of the proceedings will determine if the acquisition of the land will be necessary.”
Cllr Murray wants to discuss how the council went about its Compulsory Purchase Order, in particular how Mr McGuinness’s name failed to appear in the advertised CPO.
He says he will ask council officials AGAIN to show him the written legal opinion on the issue.
The matters surrounding sub judice in High Court proceedings are seen by some lawyers as immaterial as that court, in normal circumstances, is overseen by a single judge. And judges cannot be influenced by outside discussions.
In this case however, Mr McGuinness – supported by Cllr Murray – has argued that the seizing of his land is not connected to the High Court case.
The entire sewerage scheme may have much more complicated legal issues ahead of it, in the UK courts.
The council plans to pump treated sewage into Lough Foyle. But the British Government, represented by the Crown Estate, claims ownership of the entire lough, up to the high tide water mark on the Donegal side.
Sources there say Donegal County Council does not have permission to carry out works to “its” land or lough bed and are watching the Irish legal battles “with a great deal of interest.”
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