Saturday 24 February 2018

Book expert accepts he's not owner of Kennedy letters

Jackie Kennedy with Fr Joseph Leonard in Dublin. Sheppard’s Irish Auction House.
Jackie Kennedy with Fr Joseph Leonard in Dublin. Sheppard’s Irish Auction House.

Tim Healy

AN expert on rare books has consented to permanent court orders restraining him from representing himself as the owner or seller of letters sent by former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy to an Irish priest.

The orders also prevent Owen Felix O'Neill from passing on any copies or extracts from them to third parties.

Copies made by Mr O'Neill of the letters, which were handed into the Commercial Court earlier this month, were given back yesterday to solicitors for Sheppard's auctioneers for return to the Vincentian Order at All Hallows College in Dublin.

Mr O'Neill, who denied taking any unauthorised actions concerning the letters, also consented to various permanent injunctions against him.

In those circumstances and given the cancellation of a planned auction of the letters on June 10, Mr Justice Peter Kelly agreed to an application by Maurice Collins, for Sheppard's, to strike out proceedings initiated earlier this month against Mr O'Neill.

MJ Fine Art Ltd, trading as Sheppard's Irish Auction House, of Durrow, Co Laois, had brought the case against Mr O'Neill, with an address in Cahir, Co Tipperary.

It concerned correspondence between Jackie Kennedy and Fr Joseph Leonard – a Vincentian priest who lived in All Hallows College in Drumcondra, Dublin – extending from 1950 to 1964.

Since the case was initiated, solicitors for Caroline Kennedy, (the sole surviving child of Jackie Kennedy) and Edwin Schlossberg (as trustee as the estate of her deceased son, John Kennedy Jnr) had written on May 21 to Sheppard's, asserting that their clients were the owner of the copyright of the letters.


They also sought undertakings from Sheppard's, including that at the end of the legal proceedings the copies of the letters would be given to the Kennedy solicitors, Philip Sheppard said in an affidavit.

Solicitors for Sheppard's had indicated the firm would do nothing to infringe copyright and, should All Hallows so request, they would be happy to give the copies to the Kennedy solicitors, he said

Yesterday, Mr Collins said, in response to a request from All Hallows College, that the auction would not take place and his client had returned the originals of the letters as requested by the college.

The copies made by Mr O'Neill of the letters were also being returned, he said.

Mr Justice Kelly said he would make permanent the orders, initially granted on May 15 and continued on May 19 last, restraining Mr O'Neill passing on any copies of extracts of the letters or holding himself out as their owner or seller.

In an affidavit, Mr O'Neill denied that he had done anything unauthorised.

He also claimed that Philip Sheppard knew at all times he had taken copies of them and would need copies for cataloguing purposes. He had never intended to assert ownership.

He claimed Philip Sheppard instructed him to provide copies of some of the letters to the 'Boston Globe'.

In affidavits, Philip Sheppard denied Mr O'Neill's claims. He said All Hallows denied it had any agreement with Mr O'Neill whereby he would say he was owner of the letters.

Mr Sheppard denied he instructed Mr O'Neill to release letters to the 'Boston Globe' and denied various other allegations by Mr O'Neill concerning how Sheppard's handled matters concerning the letters.

Irish Independent

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