A courtroom battle has erupted over the estate of one of the victims of the Creeslough tragedy.
Farmer Hugh Kelly (59) was one of 10 people who when an explosion ripped through a petrol station in the Co Donegal village on October 7th.
Now a row has erupted between a nephew of Mr Kelly and his partner over the deceased’s home and other lands at Bishop’s Island, Castledoe, Creeslough.
Documents read out at Letterkenny Circuit Court heard the late Mr Kelly’s partner, Linda Gallagher, said she is the beneficiary of the last will and testament, dated November 30th, 2006.
Ms Gallagher is seeking an interlocutory injunction against a Mr Kelly’s nephew, Josie Kelly, who she claims is illegally occupying the property.
Judge John Aylmer heard Ms Gallagher attended the property on October 15th, 2022, just a week after her partner had been killed, and discovered Josie Kelly had “wrongfully or illegally entered the dwelling and changed the locks”.
A locksmith was called and a voice was heard inside the property, which Ms Gallagher recognised as Josie Kelly, but the locksmith could not gain entry.
The details were outlined by Ms Gallagher’s barrister, Gareth McGrory, instructed by solicitor Frank Dorrian, who alleged Josie Kelly had unlawfully and wrongfully trespassed and accessed the dwelling.
It was also alleged that he also placed padlocks on the gates and put a donkey on the land while Ms Gallagher had been in America towards the end of October.
The property was registered in the name of Hugh Kelly, who had lived in the house all his life. The property had been passed to him by his late mother, Sally Kelly.
Ms Gallagher sought an injunction to restrain the defendant, or agents acting on his behalf, from trespassing, entering or making use of the lands without the expressed authority of the plaintiff.
Mr McGrory said his client was also seeking an injunction to have the defendant repair any damage caused following the alleged illegal trespass.
Mr McGrory explained Ms Gallagher, who was originally from Indiana in the US, had been in a relationship with the deceased. They both maintained separate houses, but there were several pictures of Ms Gallagher in Mr Hugh Kelly’s home.
The court heard Ms Gallagher had been left “distraught” at Mr Kelly’s sudden death and the deaths of the nine other people in the explosion, as well as suffering “shock, pain and sorrow” following the incident.
Josie Kelly was represented in court by barrister, John McCoy.
Mr Kelly said his late grandfather had wished the property to stay in the Kelly family, claiming he had invested over €100,000 on improvements to the property. He said he had also organised crops of hay and silage on the farmland.
He said he had lived at the property since 1984, save for the years of his marriage, until 2018 when he returned to live on the property.
Mr Kelly claimed none of the plaintiff’s possessions are in the house and that he always had a key and access to the house. “The property is my home,” he added.
Judge John Aylmer asked why Mr Kelly had not exhibited anything in support of his evidence.
“The absence is striking,” the judge said, noting he expected to see evidence that Mr Kelly has been living at the property since 2018 and of the €100,000 he said he had spent.
Mr McCoy said he would take the matter back to his client for further instruction and said there were “parallel proceedings” before the High Court.
Judge Aylmer said he was giving a short opportunity for the defendant to put evidence before the court “that one would expect to support a contention that he has been living there since 2019”.
The matter was adjourned to a future court sitting.