Tuesday 17 October 2017

Pensioner felt 'harassed' in land dispute with minister Alan Kelly

Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly at Nenagh Circuit Court
Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly at Nenagh Circuit Court
Diana Whitehead

Conor Kane

AN elderly woman has told a court she was subjected to "harassment and intimidation" during a land dispute with government minister Alan Kelly and his father.

Diana Whitehead (72), of Portroe, Co Tipperary, made the claim during a civil action she is taking against Minister of State for Transport Mr Kelly and his father, Thomas Kelly, both of Portroe, regarding access to a lane near their respective properties at Old Quarry Road, Portroe.

LANEWAY

The plaintiff, who is originally from London and moved to north Tipperary in the late 1980s, has said access to a laneway, which she understood to be "common" land and used to access her field, was blocked by barriers in September 2010, the same month Thomas Kelly "announced it was his lane".

Under cross-examination by Emer Costigan BL, for the Kellys, Ms Whitehead said she wasn't claiming ownership of the lane, but "unfettered access" to it. Ms Costigan said it was the Kellys' case that they owned the lane.

Ms Whitehead agreed that she had put a camera outside her property, facing Alan Kelly's house, some years ago but said it was because there were "nocturnal people" driving past her house at 3am, not because she was spying on Mr Kelly.

She took it down after a request from the gardai.

Ms Whitehead wrote to Alan Kelly and his wife in 2009, she said, because she thought someone "driving down in the middle of the night" was harassing them.

"I couldn't see why anyone would be harassing me. My neighbour had become quite an important person by then."

BARRIERS

Ms Whitehead told Nenagh Circuit Court that after she bought the property Tom Kelly asked her about swapping one field for another but she would not consider this for at least 10 years. No more was said about it.

Alan Kelly moved into a house he built on property which was "almost an island of land in the middle of my land," in 2001 or 2002, she said.

Up until 2010, she was using the laneway "freely".

During that year, Alan Kelly was having his house renovated and "all of a sudden" cars were put on the laneway to block it, Ms Whitehead said.

By then she had written several letters to her solicitor "to record what I regarded as harassment and intimidation".

Ms Whitehead said a car blocking the laneway was there for 24 hours and then moved to the other end of the lane.

"I know it was Tom Kelly's car," she said. "I think my daughter put a note on it at one stage asking for it to be moved."

She also found out that a tenant keeping horses in her field was being "seriously harassed in his use of the laneway as he tried to drive along it".

On October 13, 2010, Ms Whitehead was in London for the day. Upon her return, a security firm had erected a barrier on the lane, "so it was effectively closed off" to her.

She had since secured an interim injunction allowing pedestrian access to the lane.

The case resumes today.

Irish Independent

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