September 27, 2022

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The County Kerry Coursing Club has been refused a High Court injunction restraining the owner of the former Tralee Racecourse from locking it out of grounds that have been used for hare coursing for more than a century.

Dismissing the club’s application on Thursday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said he would deliver a detailed judgment next week.

Judge Simons heard legal argument as to why the coursing club should be granted an injunction which included a denial that legal proceedings had been brought by the club in order to frustrate the sale of the property.

Counsel for the club had been asked why otherwise it would, in a letter in June 2019, have asked Ballybeggan Park Company Limited, the entity that owns the lands, to name the purchaser and that the proposed buyer be joined to court proceedings.

Barrister Arthur Cush, who appeared with Downing, Courtney and Larkin Solicitors for the owners, submitted to the court that the true motivation of earlier initiated Circuit Court proceedings and the application for an injunction to the High Court was to frustrate the sale of the property.

The court heard allegations that the club had been locked out of the 110-acre Ballybeggan Park since June 18th last when new locks had been put on gates. Mr Cush said locks had been replaced on a number of occasions in recent years due to security concerns as had happened again in 2022. Judge Simons was told the club had received at first one key, then two but had been refused further keys to operate all four new locks.

The club is the largest shareholder of Ballybeggan Park and its legal team had claimed the defendant company had no right to deny the members their “sporting rights”. The club also alleged the lockout was related to the company’s purported decision to sell the lands for €5 million which members believed was a gross undervaluation.

The club had claimed it needed keys so that it could get back into the park to feed and care for 150 hares – “very sensitive animals” – that had been gathered from all over the country into a paddock in preparation for the new coursing season. It had normally started preparations as early as June for the opening of the September to January season.

It is also due to take a delivery of feed for the hares to be stored at the park, which it currently cannot do.

Judge Simons threw out the club’s application for orders, including an injunction restraining the company from obstructing or interfering with its pursuit of its coursing activity. He also refused to make orders requiring Ballybeggan Park to facilitate the club with access to the lands and specifically an order preventing the company from taking any further steps in relation to the lands that would be adverse to the club’s interests.

The club told the court it did not generally object to lands being sold and, while it was prepared to take a pragmatic view, it wanted its activities catered for. It was alleged a deal, which ultimately fell through for the sale of the lands for €47 million, had been agreed in 2007 as a result of which alternative lands in Co Kerry were to have been provided to the coursing club.

The club had instructed lawyers to sue the company due to the firm’s “alleged oppressive actions” but that dispute had been settled before reaching court.

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