Ballybofey United lose pitch to Aldi supermarket

A football club has been given a week to leave a pitch it says it has used for 40 years.

Ballybofey United, in County Donegal, must make way for a new supermarket, the High Court has ruled.

The ground, Finn View Park, is owned by the Butt Hall Trust, which has said it plans to sell to supermarket chain Aldi to ease debts.

The sale would help ease the financial burden following completion of an arts centre in the town, the trust said.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan ruled the trust is entitled to an injunction, to apply pending a full hearing, compelling the club to vacate and hand over possession of the lands.

The trustees of the Butt Hall Trust, whose mission was described as to provide entertainment and education to the people of Ballybofey, initiated the High Court proceedings after the club failed to vacate the lands.

The trust denied the club used the grounds on a continuous basis as claimed.

Mr Justice Gilligan said on Tuesday that there was a "clear conflict of fact" as to whether use of the lands by the soccer club was continuous or not and that would have to be dealt with at the full trial of the action.

While he was satisfied there was a serious issue to be tried as to whether the club had the benefit of a sporting lease, he ruled damages would not be an adequate remedy for the trust should the injunction be refused as that could mean the sale to Aldi could potentially be lost.

Gary Foy, secretary of Ballybofey United, said: "We are a small club and we have used this area since the 1970s.

"The club never at any time objected to the sale of the land or planning permission for a new store. Our mission was always to secure our sporting right.

"We have to get off the land and it's going to become a serious problem with so many leagues happening."