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Wife awaits ruling on battle over £500,000 Irish home in 'ancestral territory'

A mother-of-four is waiting to see whether she has won a "Titanic" divorce court struggle over a £500,000 holiday house in her ''ancestral territory'' in rural Ireland.

Margie Hanley, 56, and estranged husband Michael, 60 - who lived together in Wentworth, Surrey - both want the house they jointly own in the village of Cornamona, County Galway.

They have staked rival claims to a judge at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London over the past two days.

Mr Justice Holman is scheduled to hear legal argument from lawyers on Wednesday before making a decision.

The judge said the couple, who also have an apartment in Florida, would split cash and assets totalling between £10 million and £14 million.

He said they had together run up lawyers' bills of more than £800,000 on their "Titanic battle" - and he described the figure as "phenomenal".

Mr Hanley, who has retired after a career with multinational conglomerate GE, told how their 33-year marriage hit the rocks after he discovered that his wife had an affair.

Mrs Hanley, who denies adultery, said Mr Hanley had told her that she could have the house in Cornamona and was ''punishing'' her.

The judge has heard that the couple, who are both Irish, had lived in Europe, the Far East and the United States because Mr Hanley's work had taken him abroad.

They had built the house in Cornamona about 16 years ago and had gone there for holidays and at Christmas.

Mr Hanley has been living at the Cornamona house for the past few months and wants it to be a retirement base.

Mrs Hanley, who still lives in Wentworth, says she should have the Cornamona house because generations of her family have lived in the village.

She said her 92-year-old mother still lived there and was the oldest person in Cornamona.

''It's where I have been all my life - generations of my family,'' Mrs Hanley told Mr Justice Holman.

''Life is full circle. It's where I started out. It's where I ended.''

She said Mr Hanley had said she could have the house and told the judge ''He is just torturing me. He is just punishing me.''

Mrs Hanley said the Cornamona house was her "backbone".

''It's like my fifth child. If I were to lose it, it would be like losing a child," she said.

''It's my heart, my soul, my life."

The judge said Mrs Hanley felt that Cornamona was her ''ancestral territory''.

Mr Hanley said he wanted to live in the Cornamona house and denied that he was trying to hurt Mrs Hanley.

He said he had "cherished memories" of Cornamona.

''I like to fish,'' he said.

''I like to walk, I play guitar, I like to cook, I like to read, I like to meditate."

Mr Justice Holman heard that there had been suggestions of Mrs Hanley living elsewhere in Cornamona.

He also raised the possibility of the pair, who have grown-up children, using the house at different times of the year.

But Mrs Hanley told him: ''We are getting divorced. The village isn't big enough for both of us.''


From Belfast Telegraph