Thursday 22 March 2018

Row over farm 'will haunt family for years'

Daughter says dispute with mother (89) was 'pure hell'

Nora Kelly on her farm outside Letterkenny
Nora Kelly on her farm outside Letterkenny

Greg Harkin

A WOMAN who won a family farm dispute against her mother fears the fallout could last for years.

Nora Kelly (62), from Co Donegal, yesterday won a legal action after being sued by her 89-year-old mother Nora Gildea.

She also won a legal action against her two brothers Dan and Christopher Gildea, with Judge Mary Faherty describing the latter's claim as "bordering on audacious".

Mother-of-four Mrs Kelly, a part-time nurse and part-time farmer, was left 20 acres of land by her late uncle William John Kennedy when he died in 2007.

She had cared for him at her home for 15 years.

None of the Gildeas disputed the fact that Mr Kennedy had also left 40 acres of land in the same will to another sibling, Jack Gildea.

"They didn't want me to have the land," Mrs Kelly told the Irish Independent.

"If I hadn't been born a girl, none of this would have happened. They didn't take any legal action against my brother Jack, who got most of the land in the will.

"They (her brothers and mother) live right beside us so I don't know if this is the end of it, I fear it won't be."

Judge Faherty said the case was "profoundly sad as it has affected two generations of this family and now was affecting a third generation".

The judge made an injunction banning the Gildeas from the Kelly plot of land permanently.

She also gave the Gildeas three weeks to remove rubbish, wrecked cars and dogs from a barn and lands owned by Mrs Kelly.

"Our lives have been pure hell for the past six years," Mrs Kelly said.

"We have been intimidated and attacked over this; all over what my uncle Willie John wanted. He was an absolute gentleman. He left me a third of the land because we had been working on it and he gave Jack the rest because he had always helped out and was there for him.

"If Willie John were alive, he'd be devastated that his own sister was doing this to us."

Mrs Gildea had staked a claim to a seven-acre portion of the land known as the craft field, as well as the ruins of the Kennedy family cottage.

She had claimed ownership through joint tenancy.

Judge Faherty, however, said it was clear that Mrs Gildea had not been on the land or using it since her marriage in the 1940s.

Christopher Gildea had claimed the craft field on a similar legal argument. He had also claimed the rest of the land – around 13 acres – through adverse possession, as he said he had farmed it since 1972.

Judge Faherty said there was no evidence that this was the case, describing his claim as "bordering on audacious".


Dan Gildea had claimed adverse possession of a shed and a small piece of land near his home in the townland of Correnagh, 5km from Letterkenny.

But Judge Faherty dismissed Dan Gildea's claims that he had run a car-breakers business from the shed since 1982.

She ordered that Mrs Kelly and Mrs Gildea pay their own costs in the case; however, she ruled that the Gildea brothers pay half of Mrs Kelly's costs, with Christopher Gildea ordered to pay 80pc of that.

The judge said she hoped the parties would now "move on from these profoundly sad proceedings."

Barrister Peter Nolan, representing Mrs Kelly, told the court his client had been forced to stand up to "intimidation and bullying" from the Gildeas.

During the case the barrister had likened the proceedings to John B Keane's novel 'The Field'.

At one stage, Mrs Gildea swore at Mr Nolan when he had asked her why she was suing her own daughter.

"Don't f***ing talk to me about her; I don't f***ing want to hear her name," said the 89-year-old.

Irish Independent

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