Tuesday 22 October 2019

Priest on drug charges in US can travel to give evidence in will row, High Court hears

Irishman may return for siblings' High Court dispute

Fr Michael O’Leary is on bail over charges he was found with methamphetamine in his car
Fr Michael O’Leary is on bail over charges he was found with methamphetamine in his car

Tim Healy

A Catholic priest facing drug charges in the US is not prevented from travelling to Ireland to give evidence in a dispute involving him and his siblings over their late mother's will.

The High Court heard yesterday that despite being on bail, New York-based Fr Michael O'Leary is not barred from coming to Ireland to give evidence in the will dispute.

The case came before the court earlier this month when Fr O'Leary's lawyers sought an adjournment because of difficulties concerning his availability to give evidence following his arrest. The court was told he had gone into a rehab programme.

Fr O'Leary intends to give evidence in the will dispute.

Yesterday, Fr O'Leary's lawyers said their client had made contact with them over the weekend and informed them that he had completed his drug rehabilitation programme. Fr O'Leary's American lawyer advised that the criminal charges against Fr O'Leary stand adjourned until early July and are unlikely to be disposed of until October.

Michael Hourican, for Fr O'Leary, said that "surprisingly", the terms of his client's bail do not prevent him travelling to Ireland. Fr O'Leary's American lawyer also said it was possible he could receive a custodial sentence if he is convicted by the New York Court when the criminal case is finally disposed of.

Previously, the court heard that Fr O'Leary (50) was arrested by New York police in the early hours of St Patrick's Day, March 17, after they found him and another man in a vehicle.

Investigating officers claim they recovered half an ounce of methamphetamine, two scales and other materials used for packaging drugs following a search of the vehicle.

Fr O'Leary was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia and the criminal possession of a controlled substance.

In proceedings pending before the High Court, four of his siblings - Nora Harpur, Barry O'Leary, Tadgh O'Leary and Marie O'Leary - have brought an action against both Fr O'Leary and their brother John O'Leary.

The action is aimed at setting aside the will of their late mother Elizabeth O'Leary, who died in September 2014.

The four siblings seek an order condemning a will made by the late Ms O'Leary of Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin, in 2009 on grounds including that she was not of sound mind when it was executed.

It is claimed the family home was left to the defendants, while the residue of the estate was left to the other siblings.

It is also alleged that undue influence was exerted on Ms O'Leary by the defendants when she was preparing and executing the 2009 will. The claims are denied.

Irish Independent

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