Farmer in legal limbo over Effin cow dung

A Co. Limerick farmer has been brought to court for permitting cow dung to be left on the Effin Road, which allegedly caused a motorbike accident.

Patrick Fitzgibbon, aged 45, of Maiden Hall, Kilmallock pleaded not guilty to the offence that neither the judge or solicitor had ever come across before. Garda Grace O’Sullivan said at 11:50am on November 3, 2016, she received a call that there was a traffic accident on the Effin Road.

“I saw a man standing beside a motorbike. There was damage to the right side of the bike. He said his name was Donal Sheedy and he was travelling from Effin to Charleville. He said he was familiar with the road and that there was an animal crossing on a section of the roadway.

He said he had been driving slower due to the rain and slowed again in anticipation of the crossing. He said when the front tyre went over the crossing the motorbike went from underneath him.

“He said he was sore but didn’t require an ambulance,” said Garda O’Sullivan, who then checked the roadway.

The garda said there was a “considerable amount of earth on the roadway” and it had “thickened”.
“It was very slippy on that section. I took photographs,” said Garda O’Sullivan, who handed them into court.

The garda said she contacted Mr. Fitzgibbon.

“He said he was unaware the roadway was dirty and was surprised somebody had an accident. I asked him to make a statement and he declined to do so,” said Garda O’Sullivan.

Injuries

Sergeant Michelle Leahy asked if Mr. Sheedy had any injuries.

“He did seek medical attention and had fractured ribs,” said Garda O’Sullivan.

Brendan Gill, solicitor for Mr. Fitzgibbon, asked if a medical report had been produced. The garda said there hadn’t.

Mr. Gill then asked about the weather conditions on the day.

“It had rained earlier,” said Garda O’Sullivan.

Mr. Gill asked if there had been any other complaints about the animal crossing being slippy?

“No; it is the responsibility of the landowner whose animals are crossing the road,” replied Garda O’Sullivan.

Mr. Gill asked what evidence she had that the waste was from his client’s animals?

“He said the animal crossing belonged to him,” said Garda O’Sullivan.

Mr. Gill said: “You can’t say with any certainty the alleged material caused the accident.”

“It was extremely slippy, even for me to walk it,” replied Garda O’Sullivan.

‘Highest civilian motorbike qualifications’

Mr. Sheedy took the stand and said he was travelling from Effin to Charleville.

“It had rained earlier so I reduced my speed. I was aware there was an animal crossing so I reduced my speed further.

When the bike came into contact with the effluent my front wheel lost traction, came up; the bike went from underneath me and I came down on my right side. When I was trying to get up I slipped a couple of times.

The complainant said that he is a Road Safety Authority (RSA) approved motorbike instructor and has the highest civilian motorbike qualifications outside of the gardai.

Mr. Sheedy told Judge O’Leary he suffered two fractured ribs and ligament damage to his shoulder.

Mr. Gill asked him if he was familiar with the cattle crossing being “always dirty” why didn’t he report it?

“It didn’t occur to me until it was a problem,” said Mr. Sheedy.

Mr. Gill put it to him that there was “numerous reasons” that a bike would lose control.

“It’s possible; but, the bike didn’t lose traction anywhere else on the road. My riding ability is of the highest standard achievable,” said Mr. Sheedy.

Mr. Gill said Mr. Sheedy isn’t a road engineer.

“No, I am a RSA qualified motorbike rider. I have a good knowledge of road conditions. I am also a motor mechanic,” said Mr. Sheedy.

Mr Gill put it to him that he is “trying to copper-fasten a personal injury charge”.

“No. Days after the accident the farmer made no effort to clean the road. I am a motorcycle trainer – road safety is what I do,” said Mr. Sheedy.

Mr. Gill said Mr. Sheedy is doing his best to establish liability.

“I am doing my best for road safety,” said Mr. Sheedy.

Sgt. Leahy said the accident was caused by debris.

‘It should be struck out’

Mr. Gill argued the case be struck out on four grounds. He said the address of Garrienderk South, Charleville, Co. Cork on the summons is the wrong county.

“The locus of the accident is key. It should be struck out,” said Mr. Gill. Sgt. Leahy said this was a postal address.

“I live 15 miles from Kilmallock; but, I don’t get my post if Kilmallock isn’t in the address,” said Sgt. Leahy.

Mr. Gill said that in the garda’s evidence, she used the word “earth” instead of “dung”.

He continued: “The State has to prove every element of this – that the dung came from animals owned by my client. Just because it looks like it might come from them isn’t good enough.”

Lastly, Mr. Gill argued the offence was one “more properly taken by the local authority”.

Judge O’Leary asked for written submissions from Mr. Gill and the State on the four points. The case was adjourned until March.

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