Land row compared to John B Keane play

Author of The Field, John B Keane, would have travelled to Co Donegal to hear the case of a family split by a contested will over a family farm, a court heard yesterday.

The case involving the ownership of a 12-hectare farm at Correnagh, 5km outside Letterkenny, has been heard before Donegal Circuit Civil Court for a total of five days.

Claims and counterclaims of assault, threats, and forced wills have been made between two families, the Kellys and the Gildeas who are both claiming the land.

The land was left by Willie John Kennedy when he died in 2007 to his niece, Nora Kelly, who is claiming ownership of the land.

However, Mrs Kelly’s mother, 89-year-old Nora Gildea, claims some of the land should be hers.

Mrs Gildea’s two sons, Christopher and Daniel, are also claiming ownership of some of the property.

Christopher is claiming ownership of all the land, while Daniel is claiming ownership of a shed and a small portion of land surrounding it.

The Gildeas claim that William John Kennedy never owned the land after he claimed it from their great uncle, John Kennedy, who died in 1937.

They contest that the land is theirs as they have been living on it and grazing animals on it for many years.

The court has heard various claims by both sides in the case who sat on opposite sides of the courtroom in Letterkenny.

Barrister Peter Nolan for Mrs Kelly, claimed his client’s life has been made a “living hell” over the past two years.

She had been followed and assaulted and the court also heard how she was on the verge of a “cracking up” after having had 26 sessions with a psychiatrist.

He said the case was simply in that if Mrs Kelly had been born a man, then there would be no case whatsoever, saying it was a case of pure sexism

“If John B Keane were alive today he would be here in Donegal writing about this, although the lands involved here are greater than those involving Bull McCabe,” Mr Nolan told the court.

He added that the claims of the Gildeas of “adverse possession” because they were on the lands could not be accepted.

“I’m using this courtroom for more than 20 years but I’m not going to claim. They were using lands and I say — so what? The bottom line is that they do not own it,” said Mr Nolan.

During the case, tempers became frayed and Judge Mary Faherty asked Mr Nolan to keep the emotion out of the case.

“I appreciate this is an emotional case but there are two families involved and it is a difficult case for everyone,” she said.

During cross examination it was put to Nora Gildea, 89, that she had needlessly brought her daughter Nora to court.

The pensioner told the court that she did not want her daughter’s name mentioned to her and swore on two occasions.

Barrister Seán MacAodha, instructed by Daniel Gildea and Christopher Gildea, dealt with both of his client’s claims separately.

He claimed Daniel Gildea had exclusive possession and was in occupation of the shed on the land since 1989.

He also claimed that Christopher Gildea had never said his claim was about “adverse possession” through grazing” but related to the family home and the fact that he had worked the land and was involved in a ‘joint operation’ or ‘family operation’ on the named land.

Judge Mary Faherty then reserved judgment, and said she would contact all parties involved in the case in June.

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