Authorities at All Hallows College in Dublin believe that the cache of Jackie Kennedy letters retained there since 1964 belongs to the college.
It is understood Fr Joseph Leonard, to whom Jackie wrote the letters, did not leave a will but that, as is custom with the Vincentian congregation to which he belonged, on his death his effects reverted to the community where he had been living. Fr Leonard stayed at All Hallows from 1939 until he died in 1964.
Carolanne Henry, director of marketing, communications and public relations at All Hallows, said yesterday that "the letters have been released to Sheppard's [auction house of Durrow, Co Laois] for sale and there are no legal difficulties as far as we understand."
She said “they have been kept safely by the college for the past 50 years, but we’re not really in a position to properly curate them”.
She also said the college was not being put under any pressure to donate the letters.
“There is great interest [in the letters],” she said, while rejecting suggestions that they might be of a confessional nature. “We are keen to stress that they concern a friendship between a mentor, maybe, and a good friend. They cast a light, a window, on Jackie.”
Meanwhile, the High Court yesterday granted temporary injunctions until Monday to Sheppard’s auctioneers restraining Owen Felix O’Neill, an expert on rare books, from representing himself as the owner of the cache of letters.
Mr O'Neill, of Cahir, Co Tipperary, may have taken photographs of some of the letters without permission of their owners or seller and provided those photos to a US newspaper, it was also alleged.
He appeared to have been "miffed" at not being mentioned in connection with the discovery when articles were published concerning the letters, which extend from 1950-1964, in The Irish Times this week, Mr Justice Peter Kelly was told.
Mr Justice Kelly granted additional orders restraining Mr O'Neill from publishing any of the letters or any extracts or holding himself out as having the authority to negotiate their sale or publication.