Killarney Passenger Vessel License Dispute in High Court

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A dispute over the licensing of commercial passenger vessels on the Lakes of Killarney has come to the High Court.

Aidan O’Callaghan, a boatman from St Margaret’s, Killarney, says he has operated on the lower lake from Ross Castle to Gap of Dungloe for about 40 years and has historically had permission from the issuing authority. licenses to operate two boats there, but it is said that it can only operate one. There is no legal basis for this decision, he argues.

His lawyer, David Sutton SC, obtained permission from Judge Seamus Noonan to initiate judicial review proceedings in which it is alleged that the legislation cited as the basis for the denial of a two-boat license does not apply.

In response to the judge, the lawyer said Mr. O’Callaghan is currently a single claimant but his case is “very important” to other boat operators.

In his action, Mr. O’Callaghan says he operates from Ross Castle to Gap of Dungloe and is licensed under the Merchant Shipping Act 2006 from the Department of Transport. He says he operates a boat, the “Margaret”, but wishes to operate a second boat alongside it.

He claims that the Lower Lake is contained within the area governed by the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act of 1932 and is nominally controlled by the Minister of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht and the Public Works Commissioners under that Act.

The lake was recently managed under the minister’s authorization authority, he said.

While he historically had permission from the licensing authority to operate two boats, he claims that a 2014 bidding process led him to be informed that his bid was deficient. and that he can legally operate only one boat.

Mr O’Callaghan says he was told in August 2014 that he had a current license to operate a boat based on a June 2014 letter from the Office of the Minister of the Arts, but that this letter actually had used the phrase “operating license to operate two vessels” and also attached a license extension to May 2015 in respect of two vessels.

His lawyer asked for confirmation that his license is for two boats, but last December he was informed, under powers under the State Property Act 1954, that a license was being offered for operate a boat on the lakes. It was also stated that he did not have a license for two boats and that there was no legal basis on which he could operate two boats.

Mr Sutton indicated that the essential case was that there was no authority to issue a navigation permit under the State Property Act of 1954 and that his client was entitled to a license for two boats under the Merchant Shipping Act.


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