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Priest sues ex-lover in 10-year row over home they shared

A CATHOLIC priest and a former Franciscan brother have been involved in a 10-year battle over a house after their gay relationship broke down during a Christmas row, a court has heard.

Fr Gabriel Rosbotham, now a curate in Ballina, Co Mayo and a former Defence Forces chaplain, is suing former lover and ex-cleric Hugo Crawford over part-ownership of a cottage in a rural area close to Donegal's Bluestack Mountains.

Donegal Town Circuit Civil Court heard how their relationship formed when they were both Franciscan brothers at Broc House in Donnybrook in 1986.

Judge Keenan Johnson heard claims that Mr Crawford left the Franciscans and bought Rose Cottage at Letterbarrow for IR£23,500 in 1994, paying a deposit of IR£5,000 from "pocket money" he had saved while in the Franciscans.

Peter Nolan, barrister for Fr Rosbotham, alleged that the priest could not put his name on the mortgage and title deeds at that time because he remained in the Franciscans under a vow of poverty. Mr Crawford, having left the Franciscans, was able to do so, he alleged.

Mr Crawford accepted that his former partner had contributed towards Rose Cottage, helping with bills and paying for groceries on occasion, although he denied it was as often as Mr Nolan had put to him.

The former Franciscan brother, who decided not to enter the priesthood, insisted that Fr Rosbotham only contributed €1,700 towards mortgage payments.

Under continuing cross-examination Mr Crawford admitted writing a letter to First Active bank in September 2000 asking them to add Fr Rosbotham's name to the title deeds as the priest was "helping with repayments of the loan".

Asked why he did that, Mr Crawford told Mr Nolan: "I gave instructions to that effect but I never followed them through."

"I felt like an absolute stranger at Rose Cottage. It didn't seem to be your own. I was tired of the arguments, usually over his family who came and went as they pleased," said Fr Rosbotham.

Judge Johnson was due to deliver his ruling today.