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The High Court in Dublin.

High Court settlement in ‘house demolition’ case

A couple whose home was demolished without any prior notice to them while a new dual carriageway was being constructed between Limerick and Nenagh have settled their High Court damages action.

Brian and Mary O’Shaughnessy claimed the last eight and a half years had been a nightmare after their single storey two bedroom old Irish farmhouse, at Annaholty, Birdhill, was razed to the ground and the site cleared on September 6th 2006.

The site was never used for the new road.

As a result of the loss of their home,which the couple was renovating at the time, they sought damages for alleged negligence from a number of parties including from Limerick County Council and The National Roads Authority, who it was claimed were both responsible for the operation, design and acquisition of land, and oversaw construction of the N7 dual carriageway scheme.

They also sued RPS Consulting Engineers Ltd and EGIS Route Scetauroute SA (which was a joint venture in the name of RPS Scetauroute JV) who, it is claimed, carried out works on the carriageway and Midland Fencing Ltd, a subcontractor, who it is claimed carried out the demolition of the O’Shaughnessy’s home.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Donald Binchy was informed by Michael O’Donnell, BL for the O’Shaughnessys, they had settled their action and they were now “out of the case.”

However, the action is to proceed between the defendants to determine which of them is liable for the demolition of the property.

No details of the settlement agreement were revealed open in court. Lawyers for the couple said the terms of the agreement are confidential.

The defendants all deny they were negligent. Limerick County Council/NRA, the joint venture, and the subcontractor have all served each other with notices of contribution and indemnity saying the other defendants were responsible for what happened.

In their defence, Limerick County Council and the NRA accept the house was wrongfully demolished, and the couple are entitled to compensation. The joint venture, in its denial, rejected the property constituted a dwelling house or that it wrongfully demolished the O’Shaughnessy’s property.

Midland Fencing says it was given instructions to demolish a number of properties along the route of the N7, including the O’Shaughnessys, which it described as derelict, dilapidated, unfurnished and uninhabited.

When the case opened last week, the High Court heard the O’Shaughnessys bought the house for IR£34,500 in 1998. The house suited their needs. They had lived there for a period and also rented it out.

It was always their intention to reside there permanently. Between 2001 to 2003 there was uncertainty over the route of the new carriageway.

The O’Shaughnessys, whose property was close to the new road, were informed by the NRA in 2003 their home was not required in order to complete the project. Other houses in Annaholy were acquired and demolished in order to construct the dual carriageway.

The couple planned to renovate their home, and monies were borrowed. Those plans had to be revised. In the months prior to the demolition, Brian O’Shaughnessy was carrying out extensive preparatory works as part of the renovations. Planning permission was also sought from the local authority.

By late August 2006, slates on the roof had been removed and the furniture taken out. On the evening of September 6th 2006 Mary O’Shaughnessy decided to collect post at the house. When she arrived at Annaholty the house was gone.

Initially she thought she was “at the wrong place.” When she realised what had happened to their home she became very upset. .”I got such a shock. I froze really ” she said. “I just could not understand it”.

They had no prior indication or notice that the house was to be demolished. She said she initially believed matters would be sorted out by Christmas of that year, and never thought she would have to come to court. What had happened to her and her husband as a “nightmare”, she added.

They had been told by a solicitor representing them Limerick County Council had offered an apology shortly after the demolition. However,despite doing everything they could to rectify their position nothing had been done.

All they have received was two payments from Limerick County Council of €10,000 each.

Because they had to rent accommodation they were unable to meet mortgage repayments for the house. In 2009 their lender sought possession orders in respect of the demolished property, which are currently on hold.

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