Live in harmony, judge tells family of Transport Minister and neighbour following bitter land dispute
THE family of junior minister Alan Kelly and their elderly neighbour have been urged to "mend fences and live in harmony" after a bitter land dispute.
Diane Whitehead (72) initiated civil proceedings against Public Transport Minister Alan Kelly and his father Thomas Kelly (74) after a laneway she used to access her field was blocked with a barrier.
But yesterday she lost her civil action after a case that heard unspecified claims of harassment and intimidation of Ms Whitehead, and of cameras being installed directly facing the Tipperary North TD's home.
Ms Whitehead, who is originally from London, moved to North Tipperary in the late 1980s after purchasing a four-bedroom modern bungalow overlooking Lough Derg outside the village of Portroe.
She claims access to a lane, which she used to access her field where horses are kept, was blocked by barriers in 2010, around the time her next-door neighbour Alan Kelly began renovating his home.
Dismissing the plaintiff's claim yesterday, Judge Petria McDonnell acknowledged it was a difficult and stressful case as the parties involved were neighbours who live in a "lovely location".
She said it was a case where both parties felt aggrieved and she hoped some accommodation could be reached where, as neighbours, they could "mend fences and live in harmony".
Alan Kelly was not present in court for yesterday's judgment although he did attend for the three days of evidence of final legal submissions.
He had told the court he had to "think long and hard about this issue" as he was a public figure. He said the matter was a huge deal because his father had always owned the laneway at the centre of the dispute.
"Personally for me one of the most emotional situations was to see my father (upset) here earlier," he said.
The Kellys did not seek their costs in the case, which Judge McDonnell said was "a sensible and generous gesture".
Ms Whitehead had taken the case seeking "unfettered access" to the lane, which she claimed she half-owned, according to maps she presented to Nenagh Circuit Court. The Kellys disputed this, insisting they owned the laneway, which has been in the family since the 1930s.
In her evidence, Ms Whitehead, who claimed she used the lane for 20 years to access her field, recalled how she wrote several letters to her solicitor to record what she "regarded as harassment and intimidation".
She admitted she had installed a camera pointing at Alan Kelly's house some years ago but insisted she was not spying on her neighbour.
In his evidence Mr Kelly said the camera, which was taken down after a month, was deeply upsetting for him and his family and said it was installed at a time when it was publicly known he was receiving death threats.
Yesterday, Judge McDonnell said that Ms Whitehead had not established title over the disputed laneway – as the previous owners of her land had abandoned any right to the lane, and acknowledged the Kellys' entitlements to it. The judge also ruled Ms Whitehead did not have a right of access by necessity, as there was access to the field by another route known locally as the High Road.
Ms Whitehead declined to comment after the judgment.