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At Ennis District Court, Judge Mary Larkin told the four men, “You can’t be pushing and shoving and rowing about a right of way. I am happy for the circuit court to resolve the right of way matter.”

Judge ‘won’t criminalise’ Clare farmers over right of way row

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A JUDGE has stated that she is not going to criminalise four respectable north Clare farmers involved in a row over a right of way in Bellharbour in the Burren.

At Ennis District Court, Judge Mary Larkin told the four men, “You can’t be pushing and shoving and rowing about a right of way. I am happy for the circuit court to resolve the right of way matter.”

In the case, the four men deny the assault charges against them before the district court.

Twin brother and farmer, Terence McGann (43) of Turlough, Bellharbour, denies  the assault of Joseph Forde at Turlough, Bellharbour, on October 4 2021.

Mr McGann’s twin and farmer, Justin (43) of the same address denies the assault of Emmet Forde at the same location on the same date.

Arising from the same incident, Emmet Forde (32) of Glenoir, St Senan’s Road, Ennis, denies the assault of Justin McGann at the same location on the same date and Joseph Forde (64) of Aughwinnaun, Turlough, Bellharbour denies, the assault of Terence McGann at the same location on the same date.

Sergeant Aiden Lonergan told the court, “The State would be alleging that the underlying issue to this is access to land and the extent to which that access exists and there are allegations and counter allegations in relation to alleged assault on the date in question.”

In response, Judge Larkin said, “I take the view that we should move it back until after the circuit court decides on the right of way. I am not going to litigate a right of way here in the district court and they can employ barristers and spend loads of money in the circuit court and defend their positions there.”

Judge Larkin said, “You know my views on this. I was a country solicitor in a country place. I know what these things are like. It all settles down and we all go all on.”

She added, “I can see from their addresses that they are all respectable people. They shouldn’t be in a criminal court. I am not going to designate blame in relation to neighbours on matters of a right of way. These are regular, ordinary people making their living off the land.”

She said, “I suggest that they resolve their issues in relation to where the right of way is.”

The court was told that none of the four have previous convictions and Sergeant Lonergan confirmed that there has been no ongoing conflict in the meantime.

Solicitor for the Fordes, Daragh Hassett said that all four are farmers and he told the court that “the McGanns accept that Joseph Forde has a right of way. It is where the right of way traverses the lands is what at issue”.

Solicitor for the McGanns, John Casey said that “we can both explain the consequences of convictions and of being bound to the peace to our clients”.

Mr Hassett said that proceedings have not yet been issued concerning the civil matter of the right of way in the circuit court.

Sergeant Lonergan asked for liberty to mention the matter within 24 hours “for fear there is any escalation in the situation”. Judge Larkin adjourned all matters to June 14.

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