Former Donegal waste operator Jim Ferry claims political influence in prosecution

June 8, 2023

Former Donegal waste operator Jim Ferry has claimed that political pressure on Donegal County Council is preventing him from getting a fair hearing in an enforcement case.

Ferry is before the court in relation to an unauthorised development at Rossbracken, Manorcunningham.

The case relates to a change of use to Ferry’s former waste disposal facility, which has been used as a car diffing facility and has been the subject of a ‘high volume’ of complaints from residents nearby.

Ferry, of Slieve Sneacht, Glencar, Letterkenny, is charged with failing to comply with an enforcement notice, which was served by registered post last December.

Ten categories of disclosure have been sought by Ferry’s legal representatives, JV Geary Solicitors, from Donegal County Council.

A 74-page file was subsequently furnished by VP McMullin Solicitors, the firm acting on behalf of Donegal County Council, with five of the categories addressed.

One of those not resolved relates to the sought disclosure of the identity of Donegal County Council officials who were copied on email correspondence relating to the site at Rossbracken.

“My client is entitled to know so that he can get a fair hearing,” Mr John Geary, solicitor for Ferry, told Letterkenny District Court this week.

“There is political pressure on Donegal County Council regarding this case. The knowledge of the names is essential in the interests of fairness.”

Representing the local authority, solicitor Mr Kevin McElhinney said that GDPR prohibits Donegal County Council from providing the names and he said the terms of the case were ‘clear’.

“Political pressure, or otherwise, this is before a District Court Judge on a summons,” Mr McElhinney said.

“It is a prosecution for failing to comply with an enforcement notice.

“Whether every single Councillor in Donegal is making submissions to have it stopped does not impact on the ability of the court to rule on a prosecution against Mr Ferry.

“This is a very basic prosecution and we have given Mr Geary as much documentation as we can. I don’t accept that most of that provided is necessary or relevant, but we have provided it.”

Mr Geary told the court that he had previously represented Ferry in the High Court in relation to waste management and the case had generated huge publicity, including a feature on Prime Time.

“This matter before the court also generated quite lot of publicity in terms of what’s going on at Rossbracken.” Mr Geary said.

“My client is of the view, rightly or wrongly, that there is political pressure on Donegal County Council to act here.”

Ferry’s legal team have sought a copy of all correspondence between Donegal County Council and the employee who investigated the matter,

They have also asked to be furnished with the source of the complaints made about noise pollution at the Rossbracken site.

Mr McElhinney told the court that his letter in response to Mr Geary ‘addresses all of the requests made and sets out the Council’s position’,

“The Court is familiar, as are many people in Donegal, with this site,” Mr McElhinney said. “This was a waste management facility until a fire in 2017.

“The events before this court relate to unauthorised activity – cars diffing at the defunct waste management facility. There is no question of cars operating and diffing on site.”

He said a ‘huge volume’ of complaints had been directed to Donegal County Council on the matter and said the local authority was seeking for an ‘urgent and early’ hearing date in respect of the case.

“Activities are increasing and these peoples’ lives are being made difficult by this activity,” Mr McElhinney said. “Over the course of the impending rally weekend will exacerbate off the scale.”

Mr Geary told the court that, ‘unbeknownst to me’, Ferry has initiated High Court proceedings against Donegal County Council ‘among many others’.

Mr Geary said he knew nothing about these proceedings and ‘it appears that Mr Ferry is advancing them himself’.

Judge Éiteáin Cunningham said she would consider the correspondence in the matter and adjourned the case until June 19, 2023.


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