Will dispute between siblings may be heard later this year

High Court row involving a Catholic priest and his siblings over late mother’s estate

Father Michael O’Leary (50). Photograph: Westchester County Police Department

Father Michael O’Leary (50). Photograph: Westchester County Police Department

 

A High Court dispute involving a Catholic priest and his siblings over their late mother’s will may be heard in the autumn.

Fr Michael O’Leary, who is separately facing drug charges in the US is, along with his brother John O’Leary, being sued by their siblings Nora Harpur, Barry O’Leary, Tadgh O’Leary and Marie O’Leary aimed at setting aside the will of their late mother, Elizabeth O’Leary.

The plaintiffs want the will of their mother, who died in September 2014, set aside on grounds of alleged undue influence.

In their action, Fr O’Leary’s four plaintiffs seek an order condemning a will that Mrs O’Leary, of Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin 4 made in 2009. They claim she was not of sound mind when it was executed.

It is claimed the family home was left to the defendants, while the residue of the estate was left to the other siblings.

It is also alleged undue influence was exerted over Mrs O’Leary by the defendants when she was preparing and executing the 2009 will.

The claims are denied and the action is fully contested.

In a pretrial motion on Monday, Mr Justice Senan Allen dismissed the plaintiffs’ application for discovery of Fr O’Leary’s bank records between 2006 and the end of 2010.

Barney Quirke SC, for the plaintiffs, had said his clients were seeking the discovery of information they believe is “highly relevant” to their claim.

His clients were concerned about transactions involving their mother’s accounts in 2009, he said.

There were two transactions of approximately €5,000 each out of Mrs O’Leary’s bank account which his clients believed were “suspicious,” counsel said.

Counsel said that following one of those transactions, one of the plaintiffs was contacted by staff at AIB, where the account was held. The bank official said their mother seemed to be unaware money had been moved out of her account.

Counsel said it is their case that if monies went to either Fr O’Leary’s account or a joint account held in Mrs O’Leary and Fr O’Leary’s names, it would “show a pattern of undue influence.”

The additional discovery was sought arising out of events that occurred in respect of Fr O’Leary in the US.

Opposing the discovery application, Helen O’Sullivan BL, for Fr O’Leary, said discovery in the case had closed in January 2018 and what was now being sought was broad and wide.

Giving the court’s decision Mr Justice Allen said he disagreed with the plaintiffs argument the discovery application was not “a fishing expedition.”

He was not prepared to make an order for discovery against Fr O’Leary in respect of his bank accounts, he said. He gave Fr O’Leary six weeks to comply with that agreed discovery and adjourned the case, now unlikely to be heard until October at the earliest.

The case came before the court in June when Fr O’Leary’s lawyers secured an adjournment because of difficulties concerning his availability to attend court following his arrest on March 17th last in New York. He has since gone into a rehabilitation programme.

Previously the court heard Fr O’Leary (50) was arrested by New York police after it is claimed they recovered half an ounce of methamphetamine, two scales and other materials used for packaging narcotics in a vehicle he was in with another man.

Fr O’Leary faces charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia and criminal possession of a controlled substance.