Irish priest sues gay ex-lover over County Donegal cottage

Fr Gabriel Rosebotham Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Fr Rosebotham went to court claiming he was entitled to half ownership of the County Donegal cottage where his former gay lover still lives

An Irish priest who sued his ex-lover in a dispute over the home they once lived in together is entitled to a 27% share of the house, a court has ruled.

Fr Gabriel Rosebotham took legal action against his former partner Hugo Crawford, who used also to be a member of a Catholic religious order.

Donegal Circuit Court heard they used to be in a sexual relationship, living together in a cottage in the county.

Fr Rosebotham claimed he was entitled to 50% of the value of the property.

The pair went their separate ways when their relationship ended in 2002, but the priest claimed he had contributed to mortgage payments and other household bills.

However, the judge ruled that Fr Rosebotham, who is now a curate based in County Mayo, was entitled to a lesser sum.

Image copyright Rte
Image caption Mr Crawford claimed he had made the vast majority of the mortgage payments on the property

During the case, the court was told that the pair began their relationship in the 1980s, when they were both members of the Franciscan Order in Dublin.

Mr Crawford claimed that about 20 years ago, they had both agreed to leave religious life and set up home together.

Vow of poverty

He said that he left the order believing his lover was going to do the same, but Fr Rosebotham stayed on and later moved to the Franciscan friary in Rossnowlagh, County Donegal.

In 1994, Mr Crawford bought a property called Rose Cottage in Letterbarra, near Donegal town.

The court had previously heard that as member of the Franciscans with a vow of poverty, Fr Gabriel could not own property.

However, Mr Crawford said that because they were lovers, it was the intention that the house would be in both their names.

Fr Rosebotham has disputed Mr Crawford's claim that he had promised to leave religious life.

Although he eventually left the Franciscan Order, he then took up a role as a diocesan priest in Ballina, County Mayo.

During this time, Fr Rosebotham said he travelled back to Rose Cottage once or twice a week, until the relationship broke up in December 1992.


The court heard that Fr Rosebotham left the cottage after a Boxing Day row, claiming that Mr Crawford's family was interfering in their relationship.

Fr Rosebotham told the judge that following the break-up, his former lover had agreed to sell the house and give him half of the proceeds.

Image copyright RTE
Image caption Mr Crawford bought Rose Cottage in Letterbarra, near Donegal town, in 1994

However, Mr Crawford has disputed this, saying he had made the vast majority of the mortgage payments on the property.

Making his ruling on Friday, the judge at Donegal Circuit Court said it was unfortunate that the matter had to be aired in court.

He said he found both witnesses to be very credible, adding that both were very decent men who still had considerable regard for each other.

The judge expressed regret that they had not been able to resolve their differences through mediation and said the case had caused hurt and distress to both parties.

He said he hoped the ruling would allow them to get on with their lives and he wished them well for the future.