Jingle bills and the €500,000 HIgh Court bat­tle for a hedge

Bray People - - OPINION - david looby david.looby@peo­ple­news.ie

I GOT caught singing along to a Christ­mas song in Tesco on Satur­day night.

Un­be­knownst to me some fes­tive jingle got me right in the mood and there I was singing along in an aisle to my heart’s con­tent to the amuse­ment of a fel­low shop­per, who looked at me as if to say ‘what kind of ee­jit are you’. He wasn’t laugh­ing with him he was laugh­ing at me.

It wasn’t a case of get­ting caught by some­one who found it funny. No, I would have to get caught by some­one who thought I was the most pa­thetic spec­i­men of hu­man­ity he had ev­ery seen, and for what, singing along to a tra­di­tional Christ­mas song.

As this com­plete stranger’s face trans­formed into a gi­ant sneer of de­ri­sion and dis­ap­proval, his glow­er­ing eyes pinned me to the spot and I felt the su­per­mar­ket walls close in and all sem­blance of Christ­mas spirit fade away in one foul swoop.

In my de­fence it had been a long 24 hours with The Good Woman away at her Christ­mas party so I was up late and early with the teething all-too-fre­quent alarm clock and master of de­struc­tion that is The Lit­tle Fella.

Un­daunted by my lat­est singing critic, the in­fec­tious­ness of this time of year re­turned, (no time for tri­fling dis­trac­tions when you have an over­joyed Whirl­wind Princess to en­terain with I Spy Twin­kling Lights games and Jingle Bells sung ad in­fini­tum in the car from New Ross to Gorey and back).

Can any­one but the most Grinch-hearted avoid the mirth of Christ­mas, with ev­ery­thing, ev­ery­where scream­ing nostal­gia and hap­pi­ness.

Now that the lights are hung, the tree is up and Christ­mas mu­sic is on the ra­dio, (al­beit some­what al­ter­na­tive Christ­mas songs cour­tesy of Suf­jan Stevens), there is much to be happy about.

See­ing my chil­dren’s face light up at the sight of the Christ­mas tree and their ex­cite­ment as the days tick down to Christ­mas puts ev­ery­thing else in per­spec­tive and ham­mers home the fact that Christ­mas is all about the chil­dren.

Of course for ev­ery happy oc­ca­sion there are many in the me­dia which have you ques­tion­ing hu­man­ity.

The case of a County Wick­low cou­ple em­broiled in a le­gal bat­tle with their neigh­bours over a hedge, which will cost them €500,000 in le­gal fees, got me think­ing of all the civil court cases I cov­ered down through the years in which sim­i­lar leafy bat­tles were fought out be­fore an in­creas­ingly glassy eyed judge. In the afore­men­tioned case the cou­ple lost. Lost a €500,000 case over a few feet of hedge. James and Ann Madi­gan are now be look­ing at a le­gal bill as high as €500,000 after a decade long bit­ter dis­pute and two court bat­tles ended in de­feat in the High Court. The pres­i­dent of the High Court, Mr Jus­tice Ni­cholas Kearns said if the events of this case had fea­tured in the plot of The Field au­di­ences might have re­garded them as too im­plau­si­ble to be cred­i­ble.

Jus­tice Kearns said: ‘John John B Keane’s play there was a field at stake be­tween the pro­tag­o­nists. In this case it is not more than a few feet of hedge.’

Mr Jus­tice Kearns, who at the out­set of the High Court ac­tion pleaded with both sides to take an ‘11th-hour op­por­tu­nity’ to set­tle and avoid huge le­gal costs, said it was almost im­pos­si­ble to un­der­stand how such a dis­pute could have taken seven days of court time in the Cir­cuit Court and a sim­i­lar amount of time in the High Court.

The judge also awarded all costs against the Madi­gans. Hav­ing sat through lengthy civil land cases I can see just how this could hap­pen, to no dis­tress to the le­gal teams in­volved.

The case was be­fore the High Court by way of an ap­peal from the Cir­cuit Court which last year found in favour of James and Ann Madi­gan and awarded them a to­tal of €5,000 da­m­ages for tres­pass and nui­sance and said they were en­ti­tled to a right of way onto the laneway for the pur­pose of main­tain­ing their hedge grow.

Neigh­bours Kath­leen Mau­reen Rueter and Mar­ian and Sean Rueter, who run a car­a­van park near the beach, had ap­pealed that decision to the High Court.

The court heard that an open of­fer had been made at the start of the ap­peal by the Rueters to set­tle the case, which in­cluded €20,000 con­tri­bu­tion to­wards le­gal costs pre­vi­ously in­curred.

At the cen­tre of the case was the al­leged widen­ing of the en­trance to the laneway where it meets the pub­lic road and which the Madi­gans claimed en­croached on their prop­erty.

Mr Jus­tice Kearns ruled that all of the Madi­gan claims must fail and he granted a dec­la­ra­tion that the Rueters are en­ti­tled to ex­clu­sive own­er­ship, pos­ses­sion, and/or oc­cu­pa­tion of the laneway, in­clud­ing the hedge. The Field se­quel has a name.

James and Ann Madi­gan who are fac­ing a €500,000 bill over a court case about a hedge.

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