A priest has been awarded more than a quarter share in a Co Donegal cottage he shared with his former lover.
Fr Gabriel Rosbotham took Hugh Crawford to court claiming a 50 per cent share of the property, known as Rose Cottage, at Letterbarrow outside Mountcharles.
Judge Keenan Johnson told Donegal Town Circuit Court he was calculating ownership of the house based on how much money he believed each party had contributed to the property.
He found Fr Rosbotham, a curate in Crossmolina, Co Mayo, had contributed €22,500 to the cottage, whilst Mr Crawford’s contribution amounted to just over €59,000.
The property is to be now divided, with Mr Crawford getting a 73 per cent share of any future sale.
The court had heard how Fr Rosbotham and Mr Crawford met in the 1980s when they were both Franciscan brothers.
Mr Crawford left his order and paid IR£25,000 for the house in 1994.
In 2000 and 2002 he had applied to add Fr Rosbotham’s name to the title deeds as by that stage the priest had also left the Franciscans – which has a vow of poverty and a ban on ownership of property – and had become a curate in Ballina.
Fr Rosbotham, in his evidence, said he had paid towards the mortgage and the upkeep of the house. When he left the Franciscans in 1997 to become a diocesan priest in Ballina, he would travel to stay with Mr Crawford “once or twice a week”.
He had visited more often when he had been a Franciscan in Rossnowlagh.
However Fr Rosbotham said their relationship ended because of what he claimed was “interference” from Mr Crawford’s family.
His lawyer Peter Nolan said his name couldn’t be added to the title deeds of the house in 1994 because of his then vow of poverty.
Mr Nolan produced letters written in 2000 in which Mr Crawford had said to the bank that he wished for Fr Rosbotham’s name to be added to the mortgage.
Two years later, in early 2002, the couple had fallen out and they had, alleged the priest, agreed to sell the house and split the money. But by the end of the year he had left.
Legal action began over ownership of the cottage in 2004.
In summing up, Judge Johnson said it was clear that both men still cared about each other. “They are both clear very decent men who still have considerable regard for each other. They have dedicated their lives to helping others, Fr Rosbotham as a priest and Mr Crawford as a carer.
“I think it is unfortunate that this matter had to be aired in court and it certainly strikes me as a case that was tailor-made for mediation.
“Had the parties agreed to mediation, the matter could have been dealt with in private, with each of the parties retaining ownership of the ultimate resolution.”
The Catholic Communications Office has not commented on this court case or the relationship which led up to it.
There was no response to calls made to the bishop’s office in Killala diocese where Fr Rosbotham continues to minister. However it is understood that the Bishop of Killala John Fleming will address the matter over this weekend.