Ballina Circuit Court has decided that a man who used his neighbour’s lands to graze his cattle for over 20 years did not allow him the right to claim the land.
Pat Murray of Weatherfort, Clogher, Claremorris, claimed adverse possession of five acres of his neighbour’s land, which he claimed he and his father before him used and tended to for over two decades. The land belonged to Jimmy McEverley, who died in July 2004, and was left to his nephew, Keith McNicholas, who lived in England.
Mr Murray explained to the court that his father’s cattle would go in and out of Mr McEverley’s land through a gap in the fencing, and that this continued when he took over the farm after his father died in 1993. He said Mr McEverley lived in a house on the land and never complained nor asked him to take the cattle off the land.
He added that he also tended to the land, which included mending the fence, putting manure on the grass and cutting back briars and bushes. He told his counsel, Mr Gerry Needham, that his neighbour would often visit his home and that he would often give him a meal when he called in and give him lifts to town.
Mr Murray explained that there was never any arrangement regarding rent with Mr McEverley and never heard or met Mr McNicholas until his uncle’s funeral. He said that he did not pay any heed to solicitor’s letters from Mr McNicholas when asked to formalise the letting of the land.
When asked by Judge Raymond Groarke what he would have done if Mr McEverley had asked him to take his cattle off the land, Mr Murray replied that he would have done it.
Mr Murray denied the suggestion by Mr Diarmuid Connolly, counsel for Mr McNicholas, that he was involved in a ‘land grab’ and was ‘annexing’ his neighbour’s land.
Judge Groarke said that it was clear that Mr Murray and Mr McEverly were extremely friendly neighbours who looked out for each other. He accepted that Mr Murray was clearly a straight and honest man and rejected the ‘abusive terms’ used by Mr Connolly to describe what he was trying to do with the land.
However, Judge Groarke said he had misconceptions on his legal entitlement to the land and that friendly relations with a neighbour did not give the right for adverse possession of the land.