Jailed Limerick farmer plans to bring constitutional challenge

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

JAILED Templeglantine farmer Daniel Doherty is planning to take his long-running claim on a disputed farm all the way to the Supreme Court, the Limerick Leader has learned.

JAILED Templeglantine farmer Daniel Doherty is planning to take his long-running claim on a disputed farm all the way to the Supreme Court, the Limerick Leader has learned.

Mr Doherty has spent nine months in prison for contempt of court in a row over a 40 acre farm at Rathcahill, which he claims that bachelor farmers Matt and Eddie Roche promised to give to him after their deaths.

He lost a High Court action against the Roche brothers’ family over the ownership of the land in 2010, and was jailed by Judge Carroll Moran at Limerick Circuit Court last July for contempt after he failed to move his animals and property off the farm.

However Mr Doherty is now planning a Supreme Court challenge to a section of the Civil Liability Act of 1961, which if successful could see the bitter legal battle between him and the Roche family brought back to square one.

Solicitor Kieran O’Brien, who is now representing Mr Doherty, said that he intends to challenge the constitutionality of the act’s two year statute of limitations period. This law, which only allows a non-blood relative to lodge a claim on property within two years of the previous owner’s death, is “unduly restrictive”, Mr O’Brien said.

Mr O’Brien said that this specifically relates to Mr Doherty as a legal action over the ownership of the Rathcahill farm was lodged by the Roche family in 2008, four years after Edward Roche’s death. By this time, Mr Doherty was unable to lodge a legal counter-claim as the two-year deadline had already passed.

Mr O’Brien said that in the four years after Edward Roche’s death, Mr Doherty was in a “false sense of security” over the land, and did not make a legal claim on it.

Mr O’Brien insisted that any Supreme Court action will be “completely separate” to Mr Doherty’s ongoing contempt of court, which he has refused to purge in front of Judge Moran on a number of occasions over the past nine months.

If the case does reach the Supreme Court, it is unlikely to be heard until at least 2013 and could leave Mr Doherty with a six-figure legal bill, on top of his existing legal fees for the original High Court case.

If the Supreme Court does rule that the section of the Civil Liability Act is unconstitutional, it is likely to pave the way for a new legal tussle between Mr Doherty and the Roche family over the ownership of the farm.

Mr Doherty has insisted on a number of occasions that it was “Matt and Eddie’s wishes” that he should be given the farm after their deaths, as he helped out on the land for a number of years.

However, both brothers died without leaving a will and the property passed to their nearest relatives.

Mr Doherty’s imprisonment has divided the rural West Limerick community, with his family holding regular rallies demanding his release, while members of the Roche family claim that they have been intimidated on a number of occasions by some of Mr Doherty supporters.