A CATHOLIC priest from Donegal and now based in Mayo is suing his former lover – an ex-Franciscan monk – over the rights to a house they once shared in Co Donegal.
Fr Gabriel Rosbotham, now serving as a curate in Ballina, gave evidence at Donegal Town Circuit Court where he is seeking half ownership of Rose Cottage in Letterbarrow, outside Mountcharles.
He is suing ex-monk Hugo Crawford, a native of Lifford, who still lives in the house.
The couple fell out at Christmas 2002 and a lengthy legal battle has continued since.
In court today Mr Crawford said the two were in a sexual relationship.
He had left the Franciscans, giving up his vow of poverty, and bought the house for 23,500 punts in 1994.
Fr Rosbotham, in his evidence, said he had paid towards the mortgage and the upkeep of the house.
When he left the Franciscans in 1997 to become a Diocesan priest in Ballina he would travel to stay with Mr Crawford “once or twice a week”.
He had visited more often when he had been a Franciscan in Rossnowlagh.
However Fr Rosbotham said their relationship ended because of what he claimed was “interference” from Mr Crawford’s family.
His lawyer Peter Nolan said his name couldn’t be added to the title deeds of the house in 1994 because of his then vow of poverty.
Mr Nolan produced letters written in 2000 in which Mr Crawford had said to the bank that he wished for Fr Rosbotham’s name to be added to the mortgage.
Two years later, in early 2002, the couple had fallen out and they had, alleged the priest, agreed to sell the house and split the money.
But by the end of the year he had left.
Legal action began over ownership of the cottage in 2004.
During today’s hearing in Donegal Town Fr Rosbotham produced copies of cheques paid out for groceries, mortgage payments and the upkeep of the house.
Asked by Mr Nolan if the two were in a relationship, Fr Rosbotham confirmed that they were at the time.
Mr Crawford had earlier said the two were “in a sexual relationship.”
James O’Donnell for Mr Crawford said that Mr Rosbotham had contributed just €1,700 towards the house over the time from 1994 until 2002. This is disputed by the priest.
Explaining the split, Fr Rosbotham said he’d had enough of constant interfering by Mr Crawford’s family who were from Lifford.
“They were always turning up whenever they wanted,” he said.
On December 26, 2002, he left.
Asked what communication he’d had with Mr Crawford since, the priest replied: “He called me four times; each time asking me to come back.”
Judge Keenan Johnson said he would rule on the case later.