Northern Ireland

Pat Buckley legal bid for "squatters rights" to home

pat buckley
Image caption Pat Buckley wants his name on the deeds so he can carry out £70,000 worth of repairs needed to the property

An "independent bishop" has launched a legal bid for "squatters rights" to the home he has lived in since his suspension from the priesthood.

Pat Buckley is seeking "adverse possession" of the house in Larne, County Antrim.

Members of his Oratory congregation gather to worship at the property.

He has brought a case against the Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor, who are the registered owners of the property.

Retired Bishop Patrick Walsh is also named in the legal action.

Pat Buckley, who also conducts marriages at the house, appeared unrepresented, at Belfast High Court.

He said he wants his name on the deeds so he can carry out £70,000 worth of repairs needed to the property.

With a quantity surveyor expected to be among witnesses called to give evidence, the court heard on Friday that the respondents may want to carry out an inspection on the house.

Pat Buckley told the judge: "I have no objection. In fact, I'm quite prepared to say to him today if he lets me know when this inspection is coming I will give him every facility."

He also pointed out that an objecting affidavit had been submitted by Bishop Walsh more than a year after he had retired from his position.

Canon law

The cleric, who hit the headlines over his own civil partnership last year, contended that it should have been lodged by his successor as head of the diocese, Bishop Noel Treanor.

Mr Justice Deeney responded by saying that although the court has experience in "quasi-ecclesiastical" issues, his duty did not extend to canonical law.

Counsel for the respondents said Bishop Walsh's affidavit dealt with the facts of the case.

He expressed reservations about any attempt to have the current bishop brought to court to be cross-examined.

A date for the hearing of the trial is due to be fixed in September, when a list of all witnesses to be called is also to be provided.

Pat Buckley was suspended as a Catholic priest in 1986.

He describes himself as the "unofficial chaplain" to disaffected and alienated Catholics and Christians, and others, from across Ireland and further afield.

Outside the court he set out his reasons for seeking possession of the house where he lives with his civil partner, his sister and two Jack Russell dogs.

He said: "I am not motivated by greed or looking for profit.

"But the house needed £70,000 (of work) to make it safe and in order to get a mortgage my name has to be on the deeds."

More on this story