Woman (96) suing her second cousins for repayment of $300,000

Sisters claim Kathleen McNicholas gave them money as gifts and to care for a relative

A 96-year-old woman is suing two of her second cousins for repayment of $300,000 (€255,000) that she says she loaned them to do up their houses.

Retired waitress Kathleen McNicholas has told the High Court that Olive Cunningham, of Rockfield Park, Galway, and Ann Cunningham, of Fursey Road, Shantalla, Galway did not respond when she asked for the money back.

Ms McNicholas, originally from Co Mayo and living in Manhattan, New York, is the only surviving member of a family of six children.

She has no children herself and claims she needs the money she loaned the two women to help pay for her own care.


The court heard she had saved hundreds of thousands of dollars since moving to America in 1954 through working and from some investments in stocks.

Olive Cunningham says the US$200,000 she received from Ms McNicholas was given to provide 24-hour home care for her ill brother, Johnny McNicholas, the only member of the family still living on the family farm near Knock. He died in 2012. She said she set up a trust to pay for that care and the residue from it, after Mr McNicholas died, came to her.

She also said she received US$50,000 as a gift from Ms McNicholas to “treat herself” and her immediate family. None of the money was given as a loan, she says.


Ann Cunningham says she received an unsolicited €100,000 from Ms McNicholas during a visit by her and Olive to New York in 2013. She said it was given as a gift because Ms McNicholas “did not want to leave any money behind after her death”.

It was one of a number of gifts she received, including another US$100,000 in 2009, and over which there is no claim by Ms McNicholas, the court heard.

Giving evidence by video-link from New York, Ms McNicholas told her counsel Oisin Quinn she had given the two women little gifts up until Mr McNicholas needed care in 2012. Olive was looking after Johnny who was the second youngest in the family.

She said the money was clearly given as a loan to do works on their homes.

“When I asked for it back, they said they were selling their houses, both of them, and would give the money as prices were going up”, she said.

But after making phone calls seeking repayment, she said she could not contact them again.

Asked by her counsel was the money to Olive a gift, she replied: “That is wrong, how many people could give $200,000 as a gift, that is wrong”.

She also said she had never heard anything about a trust being set up to care for Mr McNicholas.

Asked about the circumstances in which she gave Ann the US$100,000 while the sisters were visiting her in New York, she said: “Because she asked for it, I gave it willingly and I said I would need it back and she said yes she would”.

The last time she spoke to them was when they said they were selling their houses. “I knew it was a lie, they did not sell the houses”.

When they would not respond to her calls, she wrote to them telling them she needed the loans repaid for her own care, but again there was no response. She then brought legal proceedings, which the court heard were expedited because of Ms McNicholas’ age.

The hearing continues before Mr Justice Charles Meenan.