A Co. Limerick farmer at the centre of a long-running hedge dispute has spoken of his “shock” after discovering it had been cut without any warning.
Robert Hickey, of Carrigmartin, Ballynee, who claims he has poured €110,000 worth of milk into a slurry tank because of the hedge dispute, has confirmed the controversial hedge has been cut.
Hickey said he returned home just after 6:00p.m last Tuesday (October 4) to find the hedge had been cut in his absence.
“I was shocked,” he said. Hickey initially believed that Limerick City and County Council was responsible for cutting the hedge.
Limerick City and County Council metropolitan roads team has said that no instruction was given by the council to complete hedge cutting on the road.
The beginnings of the hedge dispute arose when Hickey received a note from a lorry driver for his milk processor last August.
The note stated: “Last collection ‘til bushes cut back.”
In response to the situation, Hickey had previously said: “This is going to break me. I’m sticking it out. I’m not cutting the hedge. No way am I cutting the hedge.”
Hickey had also previously written to Limerick City and County Council in March 2021, to inform them of the “excessive overgrowth and encroachment of the roadside hedge along the public road leading to my property”.
His letter stated: “I request that Limerick County Council immediately cut back and trim this roadside hedge to allow the dairy truck to be able to access my farmyard and collect the milk.”
The council had indicated that the cutting of the hedgerow was the “responsibility of the landowner and he can carry out this activity outside of the bird nesting season annually”.
But Hickey has consistently argued that this “contradicts” what a council employee said in a court case where Hickey himself was prosecuted in 2018.
During the hearing in 2018, the council employee said the council takes the view that it is responsible for the “surface and margin” of all public roads “in as far as the roadside ditch”.
Hickey’s position is that the hedge “is in the charge of the council as was stated in court”.
The Limerick farmer also said he found a letter sent to him from a council engineer in 2016.
The letter states: “The road is public for 17 perches from the main road.”
One perch is equal to 5.5 yards or 5.029m. 17 perches is equal 85.496m.
Hickey argued that this proved that it was a public road and was the council’s responsibility.
However, Limerick City and County Council has consistently refuted this and stated that it is the “responsibility of the landowner” to cut the hedge.
According to Hickey, since August 2021, he has been spilling the milk of his 21 cows into a slurry pit.
Hickey said there was “no delight” when he saw the hedge was cut.
“I got no correspondence from anyone that the hedge was being cut back,” he said.
“I am disappointed because there is over €110,000 worth of milk gone into a slurry tank and it is no fault of my own. Who is going to compensate me for the loss of that?”
The Limerick farmer has said the whole saga has put him under a lot of stress both mentally and financially.
He said he spent a week in hospital due to a medical issue in June. During that time Hickey said two dairy farmers milked his cows while a friend looked after his beef cattle.
It is understood a decision will be made next year on supplying milk again as Hickey said he is currently drying off his cows due to the slurry spreading deadline.
There has been no other comment from any other party in relation to the hedge cutting.