Both sides welcome Gweebarra River fishery decision

Both sides involved in a long-running fishery dispute on the Gweebarra River have welcomed a ruling by the High Court on the case.

Both sides involved in a long-running fishery dispute on the Gweebarra River have welcomed a ruling by the High Court on the case.

A High Court judge has ruled last week against anglers involved the long-running dispute with authorities over the right to fish on the Gweebarra River.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) took a case against anglers following a dispute over a management plan for the Gweebarra River which came into place in 2007.

The anglers had claimed they had rights to fish on the river that were established for generations but the IFI argued that if such rights were upheld it would have made the arrangements introduced in 2007 unworkable. The IFI said the rod management plan which was central to the changes was dependent on regulation by issue of permits.

Ms Mary Justice Laffoy ruled in a 50 page judgement in the first module of the case that the anglers did not have the rights that they had claimed.

“The reality is that the defendants have not established any right, public, or otherwise, to fish in the freshwater part of the Gweebarra River, including the part thereof the subject of this module,” Justice Laffoy said.

In a statement IFI said it had succeeded in the case. The organisation said the trial was sought to allow key issues to be determined in the first module with the objective of saving court time and costs. The module related to the most important sections of the fishery, parts of which are in State ownership and part private.

The IFI said it had succeeded and the defendants failed on all issues which were the subject of the module.

But the Donegal Game Angling Federation (DGAF) also welcomed the judgement. It said the dispute arose from a management plan adopted by Northern Regional Fisheries Board in early 2007 in which local anglers were excluded from fishing the Gweebarra River – a river they had fished for generations. “The DGAF campaign of opposition to this divisive plan continues and the Laffoy judgment puts this management plan in complete disarray and without any proper legal foundation,” the DGAF said in a statement. The DGAf welcomes the High court’s acknowledgement that its findings at this stage, merely allows the Fisheries Board to regulate ‘a small portion’ only of the Gweebarra River.

“While the court accepted that the Fishery Board by reason of a Departmental letter of the 15th of June 2012 now had the authority to manage parts of the Fishery, the court went on to note that it was not deciding whether the board had the sufficient legal interest when these proceedings were commenced and injunctions sought in 2009. While the Laffoy judgment does not accept that a public right to fish can be established by the long user, the DGAF welcome the Courts’s recommendation that what appeared to the Court to be a local dispute should be resolved by local agreement.”