Breaking News: The son and daughters of a man who died in suspicious circumstances have lost their claim to keep his farm.
Seamus Doherty, 67, who was well-known across the county for dealing in animals, was found dead at Drumacanoo, Churchill on June 17th, 2012.
His death is still the subject of a Garda investigation and a financial reward has been made for information on his death.
He died at his home having suffered head wounds.
Mr Doherty’s son and daughters claim he solely farmed his mother’s land, an 11.6 acre farm at Prucklish, Churchill, since she died in 1998.
No will was ever made and the late Mr Doherty’s seven brothers and sisters claim the farm, valued at one stage at €171,380, should be divided equally in eight different ways.
However Seamus Doherty’s family claimed he farmed the lands exclusively since the death of his mother Annie.
The Doherty family first decided to take an action seeking to have the lands divided after a son of Seamus Doherty began to cut down trees on the farm.
Since then a bitter dispute has erupted between both sides including the late Mr Doherty’s children and their aunts and uncles Veronica, Bernadette, Philomena, Francis, Billy, Vincent and Eamon.
The brothers claimed that they maintained the land including cutting hedges and clearing drains.
The case was heard at a civil siting of Letterkenny Circuit Court.
Mr Doherty’s siblings claim they gave him a farm of land nearby which was 28 acres in size as part of a gentleman’s agreement that the farm at Prucklish would be divided in eight different portions.
However they now claim that his siblings are trying to claim the family farm for themselves.
Vincent Doherty, 53, a brother of Seamus, claims he lived with his mother until she died.
He claims that although he never worked the lands extensively, he kept two goats and two ponies.
Billy Doherty, 57, another brother, said his mother would be disappointed if she saw what was happening in the court pitting family against family and neighbour against neighbour
Judge John O’Hagan said it would be lucky after costs if there was any money left to be divided.
The late Mr Doherty’s son, Brian Edward Doherty, said he had farmed the land all his life with dad.
He claimed that his late uncle Patrick Doherty had told him that he was going to leave the land to his father Seamus and would, in turn, be passed on to him.
Catriona Doherty, 26, a daughter of Seamus Doherty, said she remembers as a child going to marts and working on the land with her father.
She said none of the other brothers or sisters ever worked the land
She also denied that her uncle Vincent ever kept goats or ponies at the house.
Ms Doherty, a barrister, said there is no question that her father worked the land.
“My father had problems and he took a drink but that doesn’t mean he didn’t farm.
“He went farming every day. He would have put us on the bus for school as my mother worked from early morning and he would have went to the land,” she said.
Barrister for the plantiffs, Peter Nolan, said nothing was made by Seamus Doherty or his family when a letter about the land was sent to him in 2006.
This letter was asking all the siblings to allow Eamon Doherty to be the administrator of the late Patrick Doherty’s estate.
However, Mr Nolan said Mr Doherty or his family never said they were claiming ownership of the land but merely objected to Eamon Doherty being administrator.
A number of neighbours gave evidence on behalf of the late Seamus Doherty’s family saying they never saw anyone else working the lands at Prucklish apart from the late Mr Doherty.
They also told Judge O’Hagan that they always thought the late Mr Seamus Doherty owned the land.
Barrister for the late Mr Doherty’s family, Desmond Murphy, said it was a pity that Seamus Doherty died in tragic circumstances and could not give evidence.
“The evidence says he was in possession of the land. The Dohertys were not there by their own admission and so that gives him exclusive access,” he said.
Judge John O’Hagan described the case as a very tragic one and said whatever decision was made would affect grandchildren for generations to come.
However, he said he was satisfied that the appropriate length of time had not passed to allow adverse possession by Seamus Doherty and his family.
He said he appreciated that Brian Edward Doherty was still working the land and had animals on it and gave him three months to vacate the lands.
He also ordered that both sides in the case pay %50 of the costs.