Friday 20 September 2019

€280,000 was gift from close friends not a loan, says woman in court fight

John and Jacqueline Keenaghan, from Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, leaving the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
John and Jacqueline Keenaghan, from Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, leaving the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A woman became upset several times at the High Court when disputing claims by former close friends that €280,000 given to her was a loan and not a gift.

Jacqueline Keenaghan said she had been close friends for years with Fidelma 'Della' Kerrigan and her sister Celine, and could not understand why they are claiming she has failed to repay the money, which she said was offered by them to her "totally out of the blue" in August 2010.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy has heard the €280,000 was part of €750,000 compensation secured by Della about two weeks earlier over serious personal injuries suffered by her in a road accident in 2002 in which her father died.

In evidence yesterday, Ms Keenaghan denied claims by the sisters the money was offered as a loan after she told them she feared losing her home as a result of her husband John's architectural business being in trouble, had problems putting food on the table, cried in front of them over money or sought money from them.

She said she had been pressed by Celine about how her husband was doing and told her he owed more than €200,000 but was working with the bank, revenue and his solicitor to address that.

"Hand on heart and on my mother's grave, I never once asked for money from those girls, I'm not that type of person."

"We are pure straight and we pay everything and if the girls had not decided then they wanted to give us a gift we would have worked with revenue and worked with the bank."

She was "shocked and emotional" when the sisters offered her €240,000 on August 7, 2010, but told them she could not accept it, she said.

Initially, they refused to accept the money, but Ms Keenaghan said the sisters insisted she accept it.

On August 16, Ms Keenaghan and her husband agreed to accept the money. She used the vast bulk of it to pay the bank, the Revenue, an accountant, VAT and miscellaneous other debts and expenses, she said.

In her action, Della Kerrigan (59), a single woman of Benildus Avenue, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, claims it was agreed and understood at all times the money was a short-term loan and could be called in, allowing a reasonable period for the defendants to set up their new business.

Both sisters sought repayment in 2014 but it has not been paid and Ms Kerrigan is now on social welfare payments, the court heard.

The defendants, of Rathmore, Ballyshannon, deny the claims and say the money was a gift with the effect they have not failed to repay it. They also deny they exercised undue influence over Ms Kerrigan. The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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