The owners of Lissadell House in Co Sligo have said that a report prepared for a special meeting of Sligo County Council is a "whitewash".

Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy said the report does little to inspire confidence for the future of Lissadell.

They said it is clear from the documentation that the council intended from the first to force them into litigation.

The owners took legal action against Sligo County Council after a motion was passed in 2008 to amend the county development plan to preserve rights of way through Lissadell.

A lengthy legal battle resulted in the Supreme Court ruling in the owners' favour.

The owners issued their statement ahead of a council meeting today.

The council passed a motion proposed by councillors Matt Lyons and Jim McGarry to build bridges with the owners of Lissadell. 

Councillors were in agreement that they would like to see the house, which was described as the jewel in the crown of Sligo tourism, reopened to the public for the benefit of tourism in Sligo and the region.

In relation to legal costs, councillors were told that the council's own legal costs are likely to be in excess of €2 millio.

The Supreme Court ruled that the council must pay all its own costs and 75% of those incurred by the owners. 

County Manager Ciarán Hayes has said the documents show that the council went to extensive lengths to avoid litigation.

Mr Hayes told today's special council meeting that his door is open and will remain open to the owners of Lissadell House, which he said he sincerely hopes will reopen to the public.

It was a most fantastic house and facility that he would like to see benefit the region, he said.

Mr Hayes said the council does not know the full costs involved yet and it may be some time before it does and he said it would address the issue at that stage. 

Councillor defends rights of way proposal

The councillor who proposed the motion to have rights of way through the estate included in the development plan has defended his actions.

Fine Gael Cllr Joe Leonard said the roads of Lissadell had been used by the public for more than 100 years and it is understandable that there would be local concern when they closed.

It was his role as a public representative to articulate those concerns, he said at a heated meeting.

Cllr Leonard said that he did the right thing, his conscience was clear and he would do the same thing again.

Fine Gael Cllr David Cawley said that it looked to him like the family were put on the back foot and were forced to go down the legal route.

He said this saga was a sad indictment of politics and the council should now invite the owners in for a meeting to try to build bridges.