A dispute between two Athlone businessmen over adjacent lands reached the District Court this week (October 16 ) after one accused the other of ripping up a fence on his land.
Vincent Bannon (51 ) of Bealnamulla, Athlone appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes charged with two counts of criminal damage on the lands of his neighbour Dermot Lohan, both of which he vehemently denied.
The court heard how, on October 16, Mr Lohan had found a stretch of fencing posts and wire on his land had been “ripped up and thrown in a drain” after his mother had phoned him to say she had seen Bannon on the land.
Mr Lohan admitted he did not see Bannon do this, nor did he see him lift a jeep used to block access to the land with a forklift on a date while he was on holiday, but told the court that Bannon was the only neighbour he was in dispute with, and had regularly seen him trespass on his lands.
Bannon’s solicitor, Mr Padraig Quinn, told Judge Seamus Hughes that the only evidence offered by the State against his client was hearsay like this, but the judge wanted to find out more about the dispute.
It was revealed Bannon owned about nine acres of bogland, which was landlocked by Mr Lohan’s farm.
Bannon’s land had previously been used for turf-cutting, and there had been a traditional right of way across Lohan’s land to allow access, which Lohan disputed.
Mr Quinn said that an Ordnance Survey map of the location showed there had been a right of way across this land for 80 years.
Mr Lohan argued this was not on the Land Registry map he produced, but Judge Hughes pointed to the small print in the Land Registry legend which said that its maps were not legally binding in a boundary dispute.
Changing tack, Mr Lohan said he would have no problem allowing Bannon access to his land, if he was willing to fence the strip to Mr Lohan’s satisfaction.
However, Bannon told the court that this would cost him in the region of €35,000.
“None of ye are giving me a straight answer. You’re playing ducks and drakes with each other,” said the judge, before adjourning the matter for six months to allow both parties come up with a civil solution.