Pensioner allegedly ‘harassed’ Limerick teacher in ‘desperate’ bid to get €20k back

Fintan Walsh

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Fintan Walsh

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

Pensioner allegedly ‘harassed’ Limerick teacher in ‘desperate’ bid to get €20k back

Judge Marian O'Leary adjourned the case until next month to consider copies of responses between both parties

A LIMERICK pensioner who suffered from cancer has been accused of harassing the wife of an architectural planner, in a “desperate” bid to get back over €20,000 she claimed she was owed for a number of years. 

Bride Ni Bheaglaoich, 68, of Dingle, County Kerry, who had previously resided in Ballylanders, was accused of harassing primary school teacher Emma Hurley in the form of “ominous” Facebook messages and postcards sent to her school. 

Ms Ni Bheaglaoich is also accused of sending a letter to Ms Hurley’s father, and emails to her mother, Marian Hurley, who at the time was a sitting Fine Gael councillor for Limerick City and County Council. 

Emma Hurley is the wife of Ian Daniels, who owned architectural service, Absolute House Plans, with whom the defendant and her partner built a “professional relationship” following a trade event in November 2010.

Ms Hurley was a director of the company, which dissolved in 2013, Limerick District Court was told during a lengthy five-hour hearing on Thursday afternoon. 

The alleged harassment is said to have taken place between the first Facebook message to Ms Hurley on July 15, 2014 and the letter to her father, Brian Hurley, on September 28, 2017. 

The court heard that Ms Hurley and her husband first met Ms Ni Bheaglaoich and her partner, Graham Woodlock, at a trade expo in Limerick in November 2009, after which Mr Daniels agreed to draw up plans for a cottage extension at the defendant’s home in Ballylanders.

Outlining an overview of the case, Inspector Bill Wallace, of Henry Street garda station, said that the planning application was successful and that their relationship was a “positive” one at the start. 

However, their relationship “broke down” after planning applications for properties in Tipperary and Kerry were unsuccessful.

Insp Liam Wallace said there was an agreement to pay money to the defendant over a “dispute over the quality of the work” that Mr Daniels had carried out. 

He said that Ms Hurley received her first correspondence from the defendant in July 2014, and that the two parties were communicating between September 2014 and May 2015. 

Ms Hurley told Ms Ni Bheaglaoich that she was being harassed and asked her to “desist”. 

“Despite being told to desist, such communication continued, and culminated in postcards being sent to the injured party’s place of work,” Insp Wallace told Judge Marian O’Leary, presiding.

But he said that a letter to Ms Hurley’s father was the “catalyst” for her to file a garda complaint against the defendant. 

Defending solicitor Sarah Ryan said that Mr Daniels had “told lies” about carrying out work, and that her clients were €22,400 out of pocket and that they were looking for their money back. 

Giving evidence, Ms Hurley said that she had only met Ms Ni Bheaglaoich once, and that there was “no communication” until she saw Facebook messages in her “others” folder on July 15, 2014. 

“I recognised that they were clients of Ian,” she told the court. 

The “big long messages” sent to Ms Hurley said that the defendant “had a stressful past few years” suffering with breast cancer, and had accused her husband of “criminal behaviour” as she claimed they were owed over €20,000. 

The court heard that Ms Ni Bheaglaoich was going to use money that was to be made off the properties for “life-saving treatment in Germany”. 

“If I die soon, I hope your conscience can deal with it,” the defendant allegedly said in a Facebook message. 

Ms Hurley said she was “shocked” and said she “didn’t believe what I was reading”. 

She told the court that, in the months leading up to that moment, she noticed her husband on the phone a lot and had “stress levels going through the roof”. 

Ms Hurley said that Mr Daniels told her that Ms Ni Bheaglaoich and her partner were “putting me under savage pressure”. 

Ms Hurley said she “initially believed what she was claiming” and told the defendant at the time that she “would talk to Ian about it”. 

She said that her husband told her that “he had not been 100% upfront about what was going on”. The court heard that issues arose with planning over drainage. 

“He didn’t want to add to their worries...he wanted to get it across the line for them,” Ms Hurley told the court. 

On a later date, Ms Ni Bheaglaoich allegedly sent an email to then-councillor Marian Hurley saying “we want our money” and that they would “go away quietly”. 

The court heard that the email also allegedly said: “The press would love this” which Emma Hurley described as “horrifying”. 

Mr Daniels met with Mr Woodlock in late July where she claimed he “apologised” for the defendant’s behaviour and that “she was on strong medication”. 

However, Insp Wallace said that Ms Hurley could not give evidence that did not directly relate to her. 

On August 19, 2014, Ms Ni Bheaglaoich allegedly wrote to Ms Hurley on Facebook saying “time is running out”.

On September 23, she allegedly wrote to the primary school teacher: “I will meet you at the school.”

“I was horrified. How did she even know where I taught?” Ms Hurley told the court. 

Ms Ni Bheaglaoich then allegedly wrote to Ms Hurley, saying: “I need the money for treatment. Just ask Ian to pay us what he owes and you will never hear from me again.”

After this, Ms Hurley told her, “I feel you are harassing me” and asked her “please stop messaging me”. 

On April 20, 2015, she arrived in the classroom and found a postcard on her desk with a “weird, kind of, sad face”. 

“I lifted it up to say: ‘Who did this?’”

She then noticed the back of the card which said that “we should pay €22,400”, she said. There was a stamp, but no post mark, she said. 

“Had she come to the school and put it on my table? My hands were shaking, and one of the kids said: ‘Are you okay?’”

She said, “the whole purpose of it was to publicly shame me”. The secretary of her school later confirmed that it had come via the post, she said. 

Two other postcards were sent to the school on April 30 and May 6, the court heard. 

“I had to rise above it and try not to get stressed about it,” she said, adding that she was pregnant at the time. 

“I really felt I was going to miscarry the baby.”

After Ms Hurley blocked Ms Ni Bheaglaoich on Facebook in June 2015, she alleged that Mr Woodlock contacted her on the same platform. 

He allegedly said: “Bride will be sending more postcards to your school while you are on summer holidays.”

On September 28, 2017, her father Brian Hurley received a letter via registered post. 

“I said to Ian that I couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t go back to that horrendous time of my life. Something has to be done,” she said, adding that her “mind was going crazy”. 

In cross-examination, Sarah Ryan said that she had taken an oath to tell the truth and put it to her that she knew how her client knew Marian Hurley. 

Ms Ryan said that Ms Hurley said that Ms Ni Bheaglaoich knew Mr Daniels’ mother-in-law “because she’s a public representative” and that there were posters. 

“Is there an additional reason?” Ms Ryan asked, to which she said she didn’t know. 

“Was she working in Shannon Development? Your husband told my client that your mother could help her secure planning permission. I am telling you that is how she knew.”

Ms Hurley accused Ms Ryan of being “pedantic” and said: “I don’t know what my husband says to his clients.”

When asked what her company responsibilities were, Ms Hurley said: “Every now and then, I will go in to sign documents as director, but that’s it.”

Ms Ryan said: “You said that your husband gave all the money back.”

“He said he did,” she replied.

“Is your husband a liar or a truthful individual?” Ms Ryan asked.

“He is truthful.”

During the hearing, Ms Ryan made reference to a Facebook message from Ms Hurley to Ms Ni Bheaglaoich in which she allegedly described Ian Daniels as a “compulsive liar”. 

Ms Hurley said that she said this before she spoke with Mr Daniels. 

In another message, read out by Ms Ryan, Ms Hurley allegedly wrote: “I am so sorry for all that Ian has put you through.”

“When did he tell you that he paid all the money?”

“I don’t remember the specific date,” Ms Hurley replied. 

She said that “morally” her husband felt he should pay them back. She said that the couple had paid him €7,300 and that he had paid them back. 

Giving evidence, Detective Garda Shane Graham, of Henry Street garda station, said that he had received a complaint of harassment against Ms Ni Bheaglaoich in the form of texts, emails, Facebook messages, postcards and letters. 

He said that Mr Daniels suffered a “breakdown” and was seeing a psychologist, and that his business “suffered as a result”. 

Det Gda Graham referenced 64 emails between the defendant and Ian Daniels, discussing the various projects.

He said that, in an interview with gardai, she admitted writing the postcards. 

Ms Ryan said that the “essence of the emails is that Mr Daniels was untruthful about his work”. 

The solicitor said that of the €22,400 her client claimed she was owed, €6,000 was spent for the planning applications in Kerry and Tipperary; €3,200 was spent on environment impact assessments; a loss of an SEAI grant; €530 for a percolation test; and €8,000 for loss of revenue with the house. 

The court heard that she paid for all services “in advance”. 

Ms Ryan said that her client was in a “desperate situation”. 

Giving evidence, Bride Ni Bheaglaoich claimed that Mr Daniels gave Mr Woodlock a compulsory purchase order [CPO] document in relation to a property in Tipperary. 

She alleged that it was signed by an “S Coffey” and that it was “forged”. 

Speaking from the witness box, she said when she contacted Tipperary County Council, it replied that “no such letter was sent from this office”. 

She claimed that she “has a recording of him admitting that he forged the document”. 

She said she gave Mr Daniels €3,000 for the cottage extension planning in Ballylanders, County Limerick. 

“I thought I might get some decent money for it. Whatever he did, he messed it up,” she said, adding that she was informed that part of her home was not planning compliant. 

She eventually sold the property for €160,000, she told the court. 

She said she realised she could have secured the planning permission herself and that “it would have cost me a couple of hundred euros”. 

She said she wanted to move to her father’s home in Dingle. She said she was told by Mr Daniels “You have planning permission — it’s through.”

“What led you to doubt that he was telling the truth?” Ms Ryan asked. 

She replied that when she rang Kerry County Council, the application had not been submitted. 

She claims that she was told that a man in England wanted to purchase her Kerry site for €500,000. 

“Why else was the money so important?” Ms Ryan asked. 

Ms Ni Bheaglaoich said that after she retired, she received a €12,000 lump sum, and that she was now on an income of €17,000. 

The defendant told the court that taking legal action against Mr Daniels would be a “long protracted case and that is something I couldn’t afford”. 

She said it was not her intention to harass anyone. 

“When she hears the truth, she might make him do what he was paid to,” she told the court. 

When asked why she contacted Brian Hurley, she said that she had read somewhere that he was a direct descendant of Michael Collins. 

“If he is a direct descendent of Michael Collins, surely he has a conscience,” she told the court. 

Cross-examining the defendant, Insp Wallace asked: “How did you find his address?”

Ms Ni Bheaglaoich said she knew he was married to a county councillor and found the address online. 

“So, you did your research?” he said. 

“I wouldn’t call it research,” she replied.

Ms Ni Bheaglaoich said she was “never happy” with Mr Daniels’ services. 

“Why did you pay him if you were ‘never happy’ with his services?” asked Insp Wallace.

She replied: “I actually trusted him.”

“How would you feel about getting a postcard at your workplace?” he asked. 

“If I had done what Ian Daniels did to me, I would have deserved that and more.”

She added that she didn’t think it was harassment, and that she was “just looking for my money back”. 

Insp Wallace, in his closing statement, said that the matter was “straight forward”. 

Judge Marian O’Leary adjourned the matter to Thursday, February 6, and requested a copy of all the responses between the two parties.