Belfast Telegraph

Auctioneer who broke into dead widow's house can stay, court rules

A man who broke into a house 30 years ago after learning its owner had died has been granted squatter's rights

Dublin's Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Desmond Grogan can continue to live there, although he rents it out .

The court found the Chief State Solicitor cannot pursue a claim for court orders requiring him to give up possession of the house at Enniskerry Road in Phibsboro, Dublin.

The house belonged to 80-year-old barrister, Alice Dolan, who died in October 1981 without making a will.

Mr Grogan broke into the house in February 1982 after learning of Ms Dolan's death through his auctioneering job and about the apparent absence of any next of kin

Ms Dolan was predeceased by her husband Patrick in 1969.

Letters of administration of Ms Dolan's estate were executed in July 2000 and granted to the Chief State Solicitor.

The Chief State Solicitor later became the personal representative of Ms Dolan's estate and issued Circuit Court proceedings in May 2002 seeking orders requiring Mr Grogan deliver up possession.

Mr Grogan disputed the State's right to possession and argued that as he had lived in the premises since 1982, he had achieved adverse possession, or squatters rights, because he had exceeded the 12-year period required for this.

He also argued Mr O'Hagan was not a "State authority" for the purpose of the Statute of Limitations 1957, with the effect that the 30-year period available to State authorities to pursue an interest in an estate was not available to the Chief State Solicitor.

Legal issues were referredto the Supreme Court and its 2/1 majority ruling yesterday means the State cannot pursue its claim for possession.

The issues concerned the appropriate limitation period within which an action must be brought by a person t o recover lands forming part of the estate of a deceased where the State is the ultimate intestate successor.

All three judges found the Chief State Solicitor is not a "State authority" within the meaning of the Statue of Limitations.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly and Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan also found the relevant limitation period applying in this case was 12 years, not 30 years.

Ms Justice Fidelma Macken disagreed.

She said Mr Grogan had been "clever" in not joining the Attorney General as a party in his claim for squatter's rights because this would then have enabled the Chief State Solicitor to raise their interests and address the limitation period.

It is understood Mr Grogan rents the house to a number of tenants. It is believed he also owns a B&B in Drumcondra.

One of the tenants said he was an attentive landlord.

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