Assault charge involving millionaire farmer and ‘tug of war’ over antique table is dismissed

Ennis District Court judge says case surrounding three men struggling over piece of furniture is ‘riddled with contradictions’

Judge Patrick Durcan dismissed the charge against Clarecastle farmer John Joseph (JJ) McCabe (82)

Judge Patrick Durcan dismissed the charge against Clarecastle farmer John Joseph (JJ) McCabe (82)


A multi-millionaire bachelor farmer has beaten an assault charge over a ‘tug of war’ concerning a heritage table.

At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan dismissed the charge against Clarecastle farmer John Joseph (JJ) McCabe (82) of assaulting businessman John Colleran (55) at Abbey View in Clarecastle on May 12th, 2018.

After hearing evidence from Mr Colleran and his brother Joe over the ‘tug of war’ with Mr McCabe of Carnelly House, Clarecastle, over the heritage piece, Insp David Finnerty said the State would be offering no further evidence.

In reply, Judge Durcan said he was dismissing the charge against Mr McCabe. He said: “I am glad you did that inspector because this case is so riddled with contradictions that to go any further would be a complete waste of time.”

During the Celtic Tiger era, Mr McCabe secured the largest amount from any land deal in Clare when he sold 48 acres of land for €18.8 million to a Galway developer in 2005.

In evidence in the case, Mr Colleran said he was with brother Joe and sister Veronica at his late father’s workshop on Saturday morning, May 12th last.

John Colleran said they were there to abide by his father’s wishes to identify for sale all the material in the workshop and give the proceeds to his father’s grand-children.

John Colleran said his father had died just two weeks previous and the last piece he repaired was the pod or leg of a heritage table.

John Colleran said Mr McCabe arrived at the workshop, and he alleged that Mr McCabe said: “That is my fucking table. I am taking it and no one is stopping me.”

John Colleran said he told Mr McCabe “As far as I am concerned, it is not your table, it is belonging to a man in Co Limerick.”

He said: “I told him that if he could prove the table was his, he could have it.”

John Colleran said Mr McCabe grabbed the table, and a struggle ensued.

John Colleran said Mr McCabe had the table in his hands and forced his way out of the garage with the table.

He said he tried to prevent Mr McCabe exiting and was driven against a trailer by Mr McCabe carrying the table and sustained a cut to his arm. Mr Colleran called the gardaí and made a statement to gardaí the following day.

Mr Colleran said Mr McCabe “grabbed the table like a rugby ball and was going for a try”.

However, after Joe Colleran admitted he also had his hands on the table with Mr McCabe when the table made contact with his brother John as he hit the trailer, Insp Finnerty withdrew the case.

John Colleran told the court Mr McCabe left the property without the table and that before departing the scene, John Colleran alleged Mr McCabe said: “I have the money, I have the power and I will take you to court to blacken the Colleran name.”

On behalf of Mr McCabe, Elaine Houlihan BL said it was simply implausible that an assault took place.

Ms Houlihan said Mr McCabe rightfully asserted the table was his and picked up the table.

Ms Houlihan said Mr McCabe took the table and a tug of war ensued with John and Joe Colleran.

She said the man of 82 was exhausted with the tug of war with the two younger, fitter men and that he left the table down and then left the property.

Ms Houlihan said Mr McCabe’s nephew came along a couple of weeks later and retrieved the table without incident from a sister of the two brothers.

Ms Houlihan said that the heritage table would be an expensive item, is around 100 years old and has been in the McCabe family for a long time.

John Colleran told the court if his father knew that the table was Mr McCabe’s he would never have repaired it as they had a falling out four to five years prior to his death.

Michel Colleran was aged 85 when he died in late April 2018, and Ms Houlihan told John Colleran that Mr McCabe was at Michael Colleran’s funeral over two days and sympathised with all members of the Colleran family.

In reply, John Colleran said: “He did - but we would have preferred if he didn’t.”

Ms Houlihan stated there had been no falling-out between Michael Colleran and JJ McCabe though there may have been a cooling off between them.

Ms Houlihan said the two had worked together, had been friends for 25 years and Mr McCabe had Michael Colleran to his farms where he shot game on his farms and had a vegetable garden.

Ms Houlihan said that Mr McCabe “is quite wealthy in terms of property” and was approached by Michel Colleran for a €1 million loan to save John Colleran’s business when it got into trouble.

In the witness box, John Colleran replied: “That is not true whatsoever. This is totally untrue.”