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New owner of Huston's mansion in land battle

THE new owner of the former Galway home of late film-maker John Huston claims he has been subjected to a campaign intimidation and harassment by a neighbour in a dispute over land boundaries.

Yesterday, the High Court ordered neighbour David Corbett to remove allegedly defamatory signs which Ian Quinn says he can see from St Clerans House, Craughwell.

St Clerans was owned by Huston from 1954 to 1971 and after changing hands a number of times was bought in 1997 by American chat show host Merv Griffin who converted it into a hotel which closed in 2008.


Earlier this year, the 12,000sqft manor house and adjoining 43 acres was bought by Mr Quinn, chairman of medical devices company Creganna.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy told Mr Corbett yesterday that unless he removes signs stating "Photography of Children Prohibited" by 4pm today, he would have to come back before her to face possible committal to prison for contempt of court.

Mr Corbett claimed he had erected the signs because Mr Quinn and his associates had been "hiding in the bushes" taking photographs of his family, including his eight-year-old son.

Mr Quinn insisted he had never taken any photos of children but had taken pictures of the signs "for the record".

He claimed the signs were libellous by innuendo and had prompted questions from visitors to his new home.

Earlier this year, Mr Quinn, his wife Edna sought a High Court injunction against David Corbett and his parents, Thomas and Margaret Corbett, seeking to prevent interference with the Quinns' enjoyment of their property.

Seamus O'Tuathail, for the Quinns, said the interference began with locks being cut on gates and boundary fences changed and eventually moved on to a death threat being made against Mr Quinn by David Corbett's brother Oliver.

Last month, the Corbetts consented in court to non interference orders but in the last week or so, a campaign of intimidation began with the "no photography of children signs" being erected, he said.

As a result, they were seeking the committal of Mr Corbett and his parents to prison for contempt.

Mr Corbett, who represented himself, said he had been forced to put up the signs because Mr Quinn had been taking photos of his son.

"We are living the life of hell," he said.

The family, who had lived there for 27 years, had been friendly with the Quinns initially. Later Mr Quinn started asking if they (Corbetts) would be interested in selling some of their property, he said.

Mr Quinn had brought in machinery and dug up wires and put in part of a new road surface without any consultation. Mr Quinn told the court he had not built a new road but had repaired a track which had been damaged because he had to bring in machinery to repair a bridge on the property.

He strongly denied ever taking any pictures of any child and when a garda spoke to him about it, he offered to show all his photographs but the offer was declined.


Ms Justice Laffoy said she didn't know "if King Solomon could resolve this matter" but she urged the parties to sit down with legal advisers and sort out the land ownership issues.

She believed the terms of the previous court order could cause difficulty of interpretation and was therefore ordering specifically that Mr Corbett remove all the signs and that neither he nor his parents could re-erect them or similar.

She adjourned the case to January.