Kerry Coursing Club loses bid to prevent lockout and deny their ‘sporting rights’

County Kerry Coursing Club has been denied a High Court injunction preventing the owner of the former Tralee racecourse from closing a site that has been used for hare coursing for more than a century.

Judge Garrett Simons denied the club’s request on Thursday and said he would render a detailed ruling next week.

Judge Simons heard a legal argument as to why the coursing club should be granted an injunction that included a denial that the club had instituted legal proceedings to thwart the sale of the property.

The club’s lawyer had been asked why else he would have written in June 2019 asking Ballybeggan Park Company Limited, the company that owns the properties, to name the buyer and bring the proposed buyer into court proceedings.

Barrister Arthur Cush, acting on behalf of the owners with Downing, Courtney and Larkin Solicitors, submitted to the court that the real motivation behind the earlier Circuit Court proceedings and application for an injunction to the High Court was to sell the property to thwart.

The court heard allegations that the club had been locked out of the 110-acre Ballybeggan Park since last June 18, when new locks were fitted to the gates. Mr Cush said locks have been replaced on a number of occasions in recent years due to security concerns, as was done in 2022.

Judge Simons was told the club was initially given one key, then two but further keys to operate all four new locks were denied.

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

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“Sensitive Animals”

The club had claimed it needed keys to be able to return to the park to feed and care for 150 rabbits – “very sensitive animals” – who were being brought in a paddock from across the country in preparation for the new coursing season had been gathered. Normally, already in June, it had started preparations for the opening of the September-January season.

It is also supposed to receive a delivery of feed for the rabbits to be stored in the park, which is currently not possible.

Judge Simons denied the club’s request for orders, including an injunction, preventing the company from obstructing or interfering with the pursuit of its coursing activities. He also refused to issue orders requiring Ballybeggan Park to facilitate the club’s access to the properties, and in particular an order preventing the company from taking any further action in relation to the properties that was in the club’s interests would go against.

The club told the court that in general it had no objection to the sale of land and while it was willing to take a pragmatic stance, it wanted its activities to be considered. It has been claimed that a deal to sell the land for €47 million had been agreed in 2007, which ultimately fell through, after which alternative land in County Kerry would be made available to the coursing club.

The club had hired lawyers to sue the company for “alleged acts of oppression” but that dispute had been settled in court.

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