Sligo County Council Close Lissadell House


I remember hearing about this last year in one of the trade magazines and going straight past the headline…. mainly because I thought to myself

No County Council would be stupid enough to do so….

I was extremely wrong. A major catastrophe has developed and thanks to an extremely well written piece by Rosita Boland on the Lissadell situation it has hit the headlines Ireland and in this weekends Irish Times. Well worth reading.

Let me give you the gist of the story…..

Sligo County Council could have bought this house in 2003 but chose not to. Instead the Gore family bought it for €3.75 million according to their statement  as a private property‘ [then spent €800,000 on contents]. The house at the time was almost derelict. This obviously doesn’t include maintenance and a lot of staff and to date €12 million has been invested in the estate. Lissadell house has also not received any public funding.

Second…. I’ve been to Sligo. It is very beautiful… but there isn’t a lot by way of tourist attractions and in 2008 Lissadell attracted 44,000 visitors.

Here’s where it gets a little odd….

On 1st December 2008 Sligo County Council, without any notice to us, passed a resolution that the Council “amend the current County Development Plan to include in it a provision for the preservation of the public rights of way along routes through the Lissadell Estate” in accordance with section 14 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. These routes include the path running right in front of the doors of the House itself.

Their statement continues…..

For a public right of way to exist, it must be expressly dedicated by the owner of the land. That is the law. There is no evidence that any such dedication was ever made over any part of the Lissadell Estate, either when it was a 4,000 acre estate, or when it was reduced to the current 400 acres in the 1960s. Indeed it would defy common sense to dedicate as a public road an internal path right beside the front door of your house.

Whats funny now is that on Tuesday the family must defend themselves in court against Sligo County Council. Can you imagine if this were to happen to you…..? This is  ridiculous. And Sligo County Council should be ashamed of themselves.  According to Rosita Bolands article it was difficult to find anyone to speak on the record or in support of the councils actions. This includes Joe Leonard who was the brains behind this issue…..

My suggestion….. send Joe an email or give a call and let him know how you feel.

Councillor Joe Leonard

Drumcliffe Elected Member
Party: Fine Gael
Elected: 1985
Address: Cloonaghbawn Ballinfull Co Sligo
Phone: 071 9163443

In closing Constance Cassidy and her husband Eamon Walsh note

OUR VISION was to transform the estate into a flagship for tourism in Sligo and the North West, and to provide a secure environment for our seven children……

………..We have avoided the easy options to exploit and develop Lissadell commercially, but there is only so much one family can do. If we do not enjoy the support of the councillors who represent the people of Sligo then our efforts are at naught. Why would anyone continue?

Edward Walsh, Constance Cassidy and family.

UPDATE: As usual, I have emailed both Joe Leonard and Lisadell House to let them know of this piece. As yet Joe Leonard has not responded

Oh by the way this is the same Joe Leonard with *the famous poster 😉


see post: Lissadell House gets interesting

UPDATE: The Sodshow speaks with Keith McNair

27 replies
  1. Seamus Keleher
    Seamus Keleher says:

    My mom’s side is from Sligo, have been there often, have not been to Lissadell House. It looks like a lovely place, by the sea. So SligoCoCo is taking rights to parts of the property, after all that private investment? Not right at all.

  2. Suzy
    Suzy says:

    I’ve been to visit the house and am aware of the problems over the right of way. They’ve done a great job restoring it and making it open to the public whilst protecting their family life.

    They may not have received state money but they have surely benefitted from the tax reliefs available to home and garden owners who open their property to the public. (PS it’s not owned by the Gore Booth’s anymore but by Constance Cassidy and her husband Eamon Walsh who stepped in to buy it when the state didn’t bite when it was on the market.)

  3. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    not right at all as far as I am concerned…. unfortunately possibly for us all – some politicos seem to think different 🙄

    thanks for pointing that out Suzy re ownership – more a clerical error on my part. My apologies and this will be corrected. Re the financial side – One might get tax reliefs…. but its still €12 million and its still sligo…. my guess is they could have saved more money by not investing that amount ?
    Agrees…. re your opening paragraph. But do you believe Sligo Couty Council in particular Councillor Joe Leonard were correct…?

  4. Alison
    Alison says:

    Absolutely not! It is short sighted in the extreme on the council’s part. I visited Lissadell this summer and was unaware at of the problems at the time. I really enjoyed my visit and was flabbergasted afterwards when I heard of the stupidity of the council. Lissadell was definitely the highlight of our visit to Sligo. Thanks for reminding me of this ridiculous situation – I was wondering what the outcome would be. Hopefully Sligo Co Council will stop trying to cut off its nose to spite its face.

  5. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:


    as far as I can gather….. and being quite honest it is the only reason I would return to Sligo to spend an entire weekend….. One hopes Sligo County Council will stop trying to cut off its nose to spite its face. Hopes…. but I’m guessing the big men can’t won’t back down…. shame.

    This quote from The Sligo News summarises the situation extremely well

    Cllr McGarry concluded: “Finally even at this late stage I would urge the Council to re-consider their decision and not proceed with this case. It will be a sad day for the people of Sligo if we lose Lissadell House as a tourist attraction. It will also be a sad day if the Council are left with a massive legal bill, as the money to cover it will have to be found, which will mean that the public will invariably suffer”.

    beir bua

  6. Chris Kirk
    Chris Kirk says:

    Over recent years I have been to Lissadell a couple of times and hugely impressed with the work that the present owners have contributed to make this one of the North Wests flagship tourism venues.
    I can’t imagine what the Sligo county manager was thinking to allow his councillors to ruin the undertaking. I hope that when the Sligo electorate and ratepayers have the final word, that they will teach this manager and his councillors a lesson that they won’t forget. Shame on you Sligo County Council, you are a blundering disgrace.

  7. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    A Chara Chris,

    I fully agree with you…. But, whilst maybe a minority…. I must add it seems the family didn’t exactly get the full support of the [local ?] electorate and ratepayers either….

    I think which ever way this story is looked at…. its just extremely disappointing and so many people should hang their heads……

    Courtesy of the Irish Times January 5th 2010

    A 14ft wide farm gate was torn from its hinges at a rear entrance to the estate and thrown into a nearby river.

    Estate manager Isobel Cassidy said yesterday the damage, estimated at €1,500, was the latest in a series of increased incidences of vandalism and trespass which had become quite worrying. A tractor or “some kind of big machine” was used to tear away the gate early last Wednesday. An angle-grinder was also used.

    An angle-grinder and chainsaw were used in a previous attack by vandals on the estate more than four years ago when a number of entrance gates and other barriers were damaged and removed and slogans were sprayed, claiming there has been public access to the 400-acre property for more than 100 years.

    That said…. our leaders politicians have a lot to answer for….. or maybe we should sit out their back garden….and peep in their windows…. not likely ??

    beir bua

  8. Kate Bopp
    Kate Bopp says:

    How bizzarre and what incomprehensible stupidity & ignorance. The owners must be so frustrated. I wish them much luck.

  9. Mick Nugent
    Mick Nugent says:

    The English have a great saying; An Englishman’s home is his castle. I first came accross this issue in the Sunday Times about two weeks ago, unbelievable then, obviously the issue is still going on.
    It’s very much like Castro’s Cuba in 1959, after the revolution. Forget about private deedsm WE own this land now…SHAMEFUL.
    We don’t know what’s going on locally-The film “The Field” comes to mind for some reason. I wouldn’t like people walking accross my garden, such as it is.
    Best of luck to the family living there now. Did I not read recently that a “Family” home had some status in the consitution and that’s why the banks couldn’t take family homes off certain developers who had defaulted? Family home ain’t sacrosanct in this instance!

  10. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    i’d guess frustration is an understatement…. 🙄

    an absolute shame…. rediculous and a sentiment of ‘that must be embarrassing’ from friends overseas. And when it hits the mainstream press in the UK…. it is just that. Once again the people we employ to manage this country somehow seem to get it very wrong mess it right up…. for a county like Sligo… ie not excatly dragging the tourists in by the millions…. I am so surprised. Talk about being handed a gift horse and taping its mouth shut.

    beir bua

  11. Chris Kirk
    Chris Kirk says:

    Peter…Apparently the Walshes never sought assistance for their restoration of Lissadell, either from the council or any other state agency….I wonder why?
    Where I live the entire town was once part of an Ulster plantation estate and apparently the landlord still have ancient hunting rights over the lands, not that we would ever expect that to happen.
    Perhaps the Gore-Booth’s still have ancient rights over Lissadell, but I doubt if anyone else does.

  12. Aine Doyle
    Aine Doyle says:

    Dear Sir,
    Obviously any debate has two sides, and I think it’s surprising for people to take such a strong stance either way without knowing both arguments. I’m from North Sligo and I really think the work done by the current owners is amazing! It really is developing in a beautiful way and is a great asset to Sligo. They should be congratulated for their work in protecting our built heritage.

    The motion passed by the council regarded the right of way through the area of Lissadell. This issue was brought to the council by Joe Leonard after the current owners closed a road through the estate which has been used by the locals for a very long time. The council was then sued by Walsh and Cassidy and that is the case currently running.

    Prior to the creation of the Lissadell estate the area had roads and land owners. These land owners were paid measly sums for their land or forcibly removed by Sir Robert Gore-Booth (Gore-Booth family were the most recent owners) in 1839, thus creating the estate. Google the Coffin ship ‘Pomano’ to learn what happened to some of these people.

    Returning to the current debate, the locals who Joe Leonard is representing are descendants of the people who survived this period. The question can be asked do you own the road if you by the land around it?? Would you like it if your local property tycoon took control of the road you use to get to town because he owns the apartment blocks beside it?? Would you like your local council to fold under pressure because it would cost money to defend you? Though I agree the costs are maddening!

    Im guessing the Council must also consider the potential for precedence. If the Walsh-Cassidy’s win the right to close the all the roads on the estate, will they buy more of the former Lissadell estate (It used to be much larger than it is now) and close more roads? Will people be able to visit Lissadell beach like I did every summer as a child?

    I imagine a compromise will be met and they will close two of the four roads that pass through the estate. I think that with issues of security and potential tourism revenue that that is not entirely unreasonable.

    The Walsh Cassidy’s are intelligent business people, they did not purchase Lissadell on a selfless act of compassion for a neglected piece of architecture, it is an investment and they most likely intend on making money off it. Which they probably will and I feel it’s great to have people with such vision in charge of the building but the fight for local people to use roads they have always used is a separate issue and is not as far as I can ascertain an attack on the current owners.

    Well thats my thoughts, just putting out another possible side to the debate.
    Aine Doyle

  13. Chris Kirk
    Chris Kirk says:

    In response to Aine Doyle, it appears that some of the local community around where Lissadell is situated appear to have a bit of a grudge against the present owners, who just want to get on with running their business and bringing up their family. It is unfortunate therefore that local people can’t see it that way instead of digging up historic grieviences which have little relevance to the presant situation. My suggestion to Aine is to look at the greater good of this project for the sake of local tourism and job creation in the area and not allow oneself to be drawn on the negative, makes me wonder if instead of involving the County Council local people should really be talking dirrectly with the owners of Lissadell find an accomodation to everyones satisfaction.

  14. peter donegan
    peter donegan says:

    A Chara Áine,

    in the case of present day and the now owners of Lisadell, as you say and quite rightly they have done something amazing.

    In the case of Joe Leonard. I emailed Joe almost 10 months ago now and no response, to date.
    I’m all for conversation, but it is here I shall take quote once again from the original Lisadell statement….

    On 1st December 2008 Sligo County Council, without any notice to us, passed a resolution that the Council “amend the current County Development Plan to include in it a provision for the preservation of the public rights of way along routes through the Lissadell Estate” in accordance with section 14 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. These routes include the path running right in front of the doors of the House itself.

    ….and it is here that I pause. For the family home is simply that. And it is, whether history, I or you agree something very sacred. Beaches, roads and walkways aside; instigated by Joe Leonard, it maybe many things, but it still remains a family home. 40 acres or 40 square metres, that has to be respected.

    If I were the council – I’d have popped by for a cuppa and brought some homemade rhubarb crumble, first. The Councillors do represent [all of] the People of Sligo. In my opinion, it is they who have done the injustice to their public, not the family who reside in Lisadell.

    Regarding the family means to make money [from Lisadell]…. I’m dubious as to whether they have or ever will. It’s not exactly Dublin and it’s definitely not Croke Park.

    Thanks for commenting, sincerely very much appreciated.

    A Chara Chris
    I agree entirely with your closing words…

    makes me wonder if instead of involving the County Council local people should really be talking dirrectly with the owners of Lissadell find an accomodation to everyones satisfaction

    I know I would if I lived in Sligo. Of course, a rhubarb crumble in my left hand.
    A welcome hand shake with my right.

    That may however, not be the choice of all living in Sligo.

    best wishes and have a happy weekend

  15. Chris Kirk
    Chris Kirk says:

    It probably comes as no surprise to learn that Sligo County Council have transferred around 15 million euros of its debt to NAMA. Lands and property formally owned by the council will now probably be sold off to pay off the debt.
    It also comes as no surprise that councillor Leanard is Cathaoirleach of Sligo/Drumcliffe area and is Sligo’s spokesperson for social & cultural development.
    Politics is indeed a funny old game!

  16. Val Whelan
    Val Whelan says:

    Just listened to the documentary. Reading between the lines you can hear that Fine Gaeler Joe Leonard is enraged that the Walsh-Cassidys – evidently a Fianna Fail family – did not make a fuss of him when they arrived. Also the locals continually stress their ‘underdog’ status vs the new wealthy professional owners. Irish begrudgery at its best. Ultimately the idiocy of both the county council (Fine Gael majority?) and the locals themselves has killed the golden goose that would have benefitted the community itself. And what were the judges thinking? What kind of justice is this?

  17. peter donegan
    peter donegan says:

    Hi Val,

    I assume you mean this documentary by RTE [?]

    To be honest Val [not referring to you here] some, seem to think that I am bothered to a greater extent by the courts rulings and that [may be] I lose sleep over the Lisadell debacle. The reality is, in my opinion – or not, whether Sligo County Council won or lost – Lisadell was better for the Sligo people and the county council when open as a tourist attraction and a concert venue. In that conext and for the greater benefit of Sligo it is shame. What the local or greater populus believe is better doen’t really matter to me nor affect me in any way.

    For those who will walk through the grounds, I hope with my hand on my heart very sincerely hope they do enjoy their stroll.


  18. Chris Kirk
    Chris Kirk says:

    Looks like Sligo County Council has just gained for themselves another ghost estate. Perhaps they will now spend a fortune on fencing to make it safe.

    One should now look at the bigger picture of rights of way over Coillte lands now that the government is selling off our state forestry, consisting of 1.4 million hectares. It is somehow ironic that having fought so hard for this land we will now be giving it away again via the IMF. Perhaps Mr Joe Leonard can yet redeem himself from his mistakes of the past.

  19. Edel
    Edel says:

    I’d just like to point out that the present owners of Lissadell do not live there. They live in Kildare. It is factually incorrect to say that the estate is a family home. Perhaps the discusssion re rights of way can be viewed in this context.

    I would also urge anyone reading this to register any rights of way which they currently access. You have two more years to do this. It is important in the context of possible land sales by the Government of Coillte land, and any other land which is saleable.

  20. peter donegan
    peter donegan says:

    @ Edel

    would you live there, if it were your home, bearing in mind of course the great welcome you got of recent ? That aside, still their house/ home [?] should the family ever choose it to be so.

    Either or and if for no other reason but from a [inc. horticultural] Sligo tourism perspective, it is still a shame.


  21. Val Whelan
    Val Whelan says:

    RE the family home discussion. The family spent long periods of time there, especially in the summer. There was an incident when one of their children was nearly knocked down by a speeding car using the so called right of way that ran right through their home.

  22. peter donegan
    peter donegan says:

    @ Edel

    thanks for commenting Edel, but [in the politest way of asking] what exactly is your point or am I missing something here ?
    Would this not be better discussed/ posted over on straight Bananas; considering there’s been no comment here for almost 2 years now, the radio i/v with Keith was July ’11 and to be very honest whilst I wish things were very different, they very simply are not.

    That aside and without wishing to sound dismissive in any way, I have gardens to make.

    Neighbours. Cuppa. Cáca milis. Highly recommended. Life is far too short.


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