Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Catholics land sale row: farmer left £536K in will

DUP leader Peter Robinson had initially backed an £18m development plan
DUP leader Peter Robinson had initially backed an £18m development plan
Furious: TUV leader Jim Allister

The quiet Fermanagh man whose will unexpectedly became the centre of a row at Stormont last week left an estate worth more than £530,000, according to public records.

It was Fermanagh man Albert ‘Bertie’ McCullagh’s will which First Minister Robinson was referring to when he launched what was supposed to be a stinging attack on TUV leader Jim Allister in the Assembly last week.

Mr Robinson’s jibe that Mr Allister had been an executor of the will and had sold land to Fermanagh ‘republicans’ backfired spectacularly.

It emerged that the TUV leader had not been executor of the will and local people said the Catholic family who bought Bertie McCullagh’s small farm in Brookeborough had no known political

views.

Albert ‘Bertie’ McCullagh left gross assets totalling £536,058 when he passed away on August 30 last year.

instructions

The 79-year-old Brookebrough man’s net assets were valued at £533,558 according to probate records published by the Northern Ireland Court Service and available for public inspection.

Mr McCullagh, who had been suffering from cancer, left a small two bedroomed farmhouse with 56 acres of land at Ardmoney, Brookeborough.

It has emerged that Mr McCullagh’s sister Ruth Allister, the wife of TUV leader Jim Allister, was named as one of six beneficiaries of her late brother’s will.

A nephew of Bertie McCullagh was appointed executor with instructions to sell the farm and divide the proceeds among the six beneficiaries.

The First Minister has yet to apologise to Mr Allister’s in-laws over claims he made in Stormont about a land deal.

North Antrim MLA Jim Allister said yesterday that his in-laws had been traumatised by remarks made by Peter Robinson in the Stormont chamber after it was claimed that he had sold land to “republicans” during a heated row over the future of the Maze/Long Kesh site.

The First Minister wrongly accused Jim Allister of being the “executor of a will” and had sold land to “republicans in County Fermanagh to benefit his own family”.

The accusation was refuted by the MLA and a solicitor who produced documentation which showed that Jim Allister played no part in the administration of the will which related to the estate of his wife’s relative.

Since then a family member has publicly demanded an apology from Peter Robinson for raising the matter at Stormont. Jim Allister said yesterday that Peter Robinson was “not prepared to do the decent thing”.

He said: “The family has received no apology from Peter Robinson. This has been traumatic for them. This family is not near politics yet they have been smeared by these comments and have little opportunity for redress.

“This is the First Minister who is committed to a shared future supposedly who made this statement. I am convinced that he had thought out that he was going to say that — which is all the more concerning.”

Nobody from the DUP press office was available for comment.

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