A Co Mayo curate is taking legal action against a former Franciscan friar, with whom he was in a relationship, over a house they shared in Co Donegal.

Ballina-based Father Gabriel Rosebotham is claiming he is entitled to half ownership of Rose Cottage, Letterbarra near Donegal town.

However, Hugo Crawford, who still lives in the house, is disputing his claim.

Donegal Circuit Court heard that the relationship between the two men began in the 1980s when they were both members of the Franciscan Order in Dublin.

They moved to Donegal in 1994. Fr Gabriel was in the Franciscan friary in Rossnowlagh but Mr Crawford had left the order and he bought Rose Cottage.

As a member of the Franciscans with a vow of poverty, Fr Gabriel could not own property but Mr Crawford said they were in a sexual relationship and it was the intention that the house would be in both their names.

He said the agreement was that both would leave religious life.

Mr Crawford left believing that Fr Gabriel would take the next step but he never did, he said.

Fr Gabriel told the court that he never informed Mr Crawford that he was going to leave the priesthood.

He said he left the Franciscans and moved to Ballina as a diocesan priest, but he would travel back to Rose Cottage once or twice a week until the relationship broke up.

The two men split up on St Stephen's Day 2002 with Fr Gabriel leaving the house claiming that Mr Crawford's family was interfering.

Mr Crawford said he tried to patch things up. He still loved Fr Gabriel and asked him to come back but he did not.

Fr Gabriel told Judge Keenan Johnson that after the relationship ended they agreed to have the house valued, sell it and split the proceeds 50:50. But Mr Crawford said this was not agreed.

He told the court that he made all the mortgage repayments apart from a small sum.

Mr Crawford rejected claims by Fr Gabriel that he regularly repaid the loan, paid bills, bought groceries and furniture, and was entitled to half ownership of the house. 

Judge Keenan Johnson will rule in the case tomorrow.