Bid to restore Boom Hall in Derry suffers legal setback
A campaigner for the restoration of a derelict stately home with links to the Siege of Derry has failed in a High Court bid to secure legal ownership of the building.
Bartholomew O'Donnell was appealing a refusal to grant him adverse possession rights to land within the walls of Boom Hall in the city.
Despite expressing admiration for Mr O'Donnell's efforts over decades to save the historic building, a judge ruled that he has not acquired legal title.
Built in the 18th century, Boom Hall took its name from being located close to where ships breached the boom across the River Foyle to end the Siege of Derry in 1689. Since being badly damaged and abandoned in 1969, however, it has remained in a dilapidated state with roof, floors and windows all missing.
Eighteen years later Mr O'Donnell became aware of a plan to demolish the building and use the masonry elsewhere in the city, the court heard. At that stage he secured a right to remove the stonework for his own use - although his intention was to avoid any demolition.
In 1997 he reached an agreement after the then Derry City Council purchased the estate.
Its terms included acknowledging the council as owner of the estate and building, determining Mr O'Donnell has the right to demolish Boom Hall and remove the stones from the site, and granting him 12 months to exercise that right.
His case was that over a subsequent 12-year period from 1998 to 2010 he established the exclusive possession of the disputed lands necessary to oust ownership. In a case against the council first heard at Derry County Court, Mr O'Donnell sought a declaration that he had extinguished its title to land inside the buildings walls by adverse possession.
On being refused the declaration, Mr O'Donnell mounted an appeal at the High Court in Belfast.
Upholding the original verdict, Mr Justice Burgess said: "I have nothing but admiration for the appellant in this case, and his intentions which, contrary to the basis of his claim, were and continue to be directed towards the public interest in the restoration of a building with such a history.
"However, his actions were clearly directed to holding the status quo, to avoid further deterioration, in order that others could acquire the property and carry out the restoration he so obviously desires.
"However, those intentions went no further and therefore. I determine that he has not acquired legal title by way of adverse possession over the building."