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Aillwee Cave firm’s plan to house staff ensnared in family row over shed


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The Burren tourist attraction is ­jointly owned by members of the Johnson and Mulqueeney families, and former shareholder and employee in the business Ben Johnson has lodged an objection with Clare County Council against the planned staff accommodation at Aillwee Cave.

Mr Johnson is claiming that the building Aillwee Cave Co Ltd is planning to convert into staff accommodation is his, but Aillwee Burren Experience managing director Nuala Mulqueeney disputed this, stating yesterday that Mr Johnson’s claim “is incorrect”.

Ms Mulqueeney said: “Where we are applying for planning permission is an asset belonging to the cave.”

Ms Mulqueeney said the planning application is required as the Aillwee Burren Experience needs affordable, sustainable, year-round accommodation for its staff.

However, an objection lodged with the council on Mr Johnson’s behalf by Galway legal firm Benen Fahy Associates states that “the lands in question belong to our client even though he is not the registered owner”.

In an accompanying letter by Mr Johnson, he tells the council that two Johnsons who are directors of the business “will testify that the lands and buildings belong to me”.

Ben Johnson sold his shareholding in the business in 2014 but was instrumental in setting up the cheese brand associated with Aillwee Cave and the bird of prey centre at the Co Clare visitor attraction.

Mr Johnson worked at Aillwee Caves from 1985 to 2014.

On his claim that the building is his, he said in an interview that Aillwee Cave purchased the shed from him in 2006/07 but in 2009, after he highlighted “a huge wage discrepancy between myself and my brothers, resulting in a big family row, I said to my father ‘I want my shed back’ and he said, ‘Of course, you can have it back’.”

However, Mr Johnson’s father, ­Roger, died in 2011 and the shed was never transferred back to him.

He said the building “morally is mine”. He added: “Because of the stamp I left on Aillwee Cave, I am justified in claiming the shed back at the very least.”

Mr Johnson said he hopes the council will refuse planning permission.

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