A 71-year-old farmer allegedly assaulted his niece at a farm-gate in south Galway in a family row over land, a court has heard.
At Gort District Court, Caroline Morrissey said that her uncle, Tony Morrissey of Moneyteige, Craughwell, Galway ‘swiped’ her across the face, knocking her to the ground at Tallowroe, Craughwell on August 8th 2021.
Ms Morrissey told the court that she is the executor of her parents’ estate where her mother has bequeathed the farm to four children.
Ms Morrissey said that Tony Morrissey, her late father, John’s brother is contesting the will.
She said: "He believes that he is a beneficiary of my mother’s estate, which he isn’t.”
Tony Morrissey denies the assault charge and his solicitor, Cormac McCarthy told the court that there was no intention by Mr Morrissey to hit Caroline Morrissey of any description. Mr McCarthy said that what had occurred was accidental.
Mr McCarthy said that “it was not a strike or a punch and this is part of a bigger probate issue and one of a series of events that have occurred”.
He said: “There is due process in these kinds of matters - not down on a farm at a private gate."
Mr McCarthy said that Tony Morrissey has been farming the lands in question for the last 50 years.
Recalling the incident on August 8th 2021 at the farm gate, Caroline Morrissey said that she told Tony Morrissey “you are not disrespecting my parents’ wills”.
She said: “Tony started screaming and shouting like a hyena… Tony raised his hands and swiped me into the face and knocked me to the ground.”
Ms Morrissey said: “I feel sad…he is cutting off the next two generations of family for no reason."
Ms Morrissey said that when Tony Morrissey first saw herself and her sister, Julie on the lands that day “he said that we were trespassing on his land and we were to get off his land otherwise he would get the Gardai onto us”.
Ms Morrissey said that the locks had been changed to the lands on the farm gate.
She said: "We couldn't get on the lands because our locks had been changed and there was cattle on the top field.”
The sisters put their own lock on the gate and Caroline Morrissey said that Tony Morrissey and another man were breaking the lock on the gate.
Mr McCarthy said that on the day Tony Morrissey needed to get through the gate as he was planning to spread slurry.
Mr McCarthy said that Caroline Morrissey had earlier stopped Tony Morrissey on the public road and shouted obscenities and called him "a land grabber". Caroline Morrissey denied this.
In her evidence, Caroline Morrissey’s sister, Julie said that she was at the gate and witnessed the alleged assault by Tony Morrissey on her sister.
Julie said: “There is no justification for my uncle hitting my sister for her just doing her job. She didn't want the job, but she got the job because she is the eldest and is fulfilling our parents’ wishes.”
Julie Morrissey said that she has paid for a mass “to be said for his forgiveness and the disrespect he has shown”.
She said: "It is our lands and the land is what our parents have given us. It is not his lands. It is our lands. He was trespassing.”
Mr McCarthy said that what occurred at the farm-gate involving Mr Morrissey and Caroline Morrissey was an accident. In response, Julie Morrissey said: “There is no possibility that this was accidental.”
Julie Morrissey said: "He knew that he had gone too far - he knew that he crossed the line.”
Judge Mary Larkin said that the issue as to who owns the lands will be decided in the Circuit Court and the High Court and that she was only interested in the alleged assault.
The two Morrissey sisters had travelled from their home in the UK to give evidence and Judge Larkin adjourned the case to next month to hear the remainder of the State’s case and the defence.