Enforcement court case against Cassidys adjourned for High Court ruling

March 27, 2024

A court case involving the Donegal company at the centre of the defective concrete blocks scandal has been adjourned as legal teams consider the possible impact of a landmark High Court decision.

An enforcement case taken by Donegal County Council against Cassidy Brothers Concrete Products Limited was due to be finalised at Buncrana District Court this week.

However, when the matter came before Judge Ciaran Liddy, the court was told that the case could be adjourned on consent.

Solicitor for Donegal County Council, Mr Kevin McElhinney, told the court that the High Court decision is ‘currently being considered’.

Mr McElhinney told Judge Liddy that there are ‘ancillary applications to be made’ in all matters involving Donegal County Council, except for parking prosecutions.

The proceedings against Cassidys, taken for non-compliance with planning conditions at its headquarters at Gransha, Buncrana, have now been put back to May 28 next ‘for mention’. Mr McElhinney advised the court that the adjournment was ‘by consent’ with Cassidys’ legal representatives.

Mr McElhinney said that he may then be in a position to further advise the court in respect of the recent High Court ruling of Mr Justice Conleth Bradley, which was delivered on March 1, 2024.

His judgement was in the case of an enforcement matter, also taken by Donegal County Council, against a Mr Ciaran Quinn relating to an unauthorised development at Croagh, Dunkineely.

In that case the summons records that the application for its issue was made by ‘V.P. McMullin, Solicitors on behalf of the above-named Prosecutor’.

It was submitted on behalf of Mr Quinn that V.P. McMullin is not a legal person being an unincorporated body of persons. It was argued that the Courts Act requires application for a summons to be made by a person with legal capacity.

Mr Justice Bradley ruled that the Courts Act ‘does not authorise the issue of a summons on the application of ‘VP McMullin’ being a firm of solicitors and an unincorporated body of persons’.

The landmark verdict has widespread impact now on other summonses issued by VP McMullin on behalf of the local authority, including that involving Cassidy Brothers Concrete Products Limited.

In January, Judge Éiteáin Cunningham had asked for legal submissions from the legal firms representing both the Council and Cassidys. Judge Cunningham requested that these include submissions ‘as to whether the court has the power to look behind the enforcement notice’.

An enforcement notice was served on the company in May 2022 and in January 2023 a summons was issued, but in November the court heard that Cassidys were unable to discharge various financial contributions, totalling over €670,000, to Donegal County Council. These monies were part of strict conditions laid down by the local authority in granting planning permission for continuation of the quarrying works.

Last November, Ms Natasha Cassidy, a director of the company, addressed Buncrana District Court. From the witness box, she said that the last blasting of rock took place in April 2021 and no extraction works have taken place since around August 2021.

Ms Cassidy said that a ‘boycott campaign started and escalated’ against the company prior to the cessation of the quarrying.

Mr Oisin Collins SC told the court on that occasion that Cassidys ceased operating in September 2021 and the site ‘was effectively forced to close’.

The court heard previously how a planning enforcement officer visited the site in April 2022 and established that six of 18 issues of non-compliance were either outstanding or part-outstanding and an enforcement notice was issued in May 2022.

Various monies, in respect of a security bond and financial contributions relating to road works and development charges, and which totalled €671,199.64, were still outstanding and were due to have been discharged by December 2020.