Shades of The Field in re­turned em­i­grant, be­grudgery, land row and a pub­lic apol­ogy

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Gerry Hand news@mailon­sun­day.ie

A MAN has pleaded guilty to send­ing a busi­ness­man a let­ter telling him to ‘f*** off back to the USA’.

Alec Lan­gan, 75, was told to pay €1,000 to the court poor­box af­ter plead­ing guilty at Lis­towel Dis­trict Court to send­ing the let­ter.

The busi­ness­man, Michael McEl­lig­ott, 54, is ac­tu­ally from Tar­bert in Kerry but had em­i­grated to New York.

And de­spite since re­turn­ing to the US, Mr McEl­lig­ott was in court to see Mr Lan­gan’s sen­tenc­ing.

Lan­gan, from Tar­bert Is­land had been charged with send­ing by post – on dates from March 11, 2016, to March 15, 2016 – a grossly of­fen­sive let­ter to The Nest, Church Street, Tar­bert.

The case has pre­vi­ously been com­pared to The Field, the cel­e­brated play by Kerry au­thor John B Keane that was later turned into a film with Richard Har­ris.

Speak­ing to the Ir­ish Mail On Sun­day about his de­ci­sion to re­turn to the US, Mr McEl­lig­ott said: ‘I haven’t lost. I would only have lost if I al­lowed them to drag me down into the gut­ter with them.’

Mr McEl­lig­ott, who re­lo­cated his fam­ily and con­struc­tion busi­ness to New York in March – hav­ing built up a busi­ness there be­fore re­turn­ing to Tar­bert some years back – was speak­ing af­ter Judge James O’Con­nor told Lan­gan that if

‘We don’t need a b **** x like you around here’

he paid €1,000 into the court poor­box be­fore next May, he would avoid a con­vic­tion.

Lan­gan sent the let­ter to the re­turned em­i­grant in 2016. It said: ‘F*** off back to the USA… We don’t need a b **** x like you around you will be hounded out. We do not want c **** like you around.’ It was signed: ‘The peo­ple of Tar­bert’.

There was also a poem and a car­toon in the en­ve­lope con­tain­ing the let­ter.

On Thurs­day, Sergeant Kieran O’Con­nell told the hear­ing: ‘Ini­tially he de­nied be­ing the writer but sub­se­quently he ad­mit­ted it.’

The de­fen­dant’s solic­i­tor, He­len Lucey, said: ‘He can­not un­der­stand to this day why he did what he did. He has been in ill health for a num­ber of years. He’s a com­mu­nity-fo­cused man who has been part of the com­mit­tee that or­gan­ises the New Year’s Eve cel­e­bra­tions for the past 16 years.

‘He did work abroad for some years and re­turned to Tar­bert in 1988. He has never had as much as a park­ing ticket in his life.

‘He gen­uinely wishes to apol­o­gise for what hap­pened and, as I said, he doesn’t un­der­stand why he did it.’

The row ap­pears to have stemmed from a dis­pute over a right of way be­tween the lo­cal GAA club and land owned by Mr McEl­lig­ott, who built a home close to GAA land.

A civil case re­lat­ing to this mat­ter is due to be heard soon.

At one point, Mr McEl­lig­ott em­ployed 20 peo­ple in his con­struc­tion busi­ness but has since moved back to Amer­ica.

He said: ‘This was part of an or­ches­trated cam­paign to pre­vent me do­ing busi­ness lo­cally. It has been dam­ag­ing to me pro­fes­sion­ally and ex­tremely hurt­ful to my fam­ily. The poem and car­toons were deeply up­set­ting for my wife. They made fun of me and my fam­ily, which is not nice.

‘I have had enough now. I have 10 houses around here that I want to sell and fi­nally cut my ties to my home place.

‘I ac­cept the man’s apol­ogy but this re­ally was just the tip of the ice­berg. There’s a lot more de­tail of what hap­pened that will emerge in the civil case.

‘My fam­ily put a lot of it down to dis­like of a man do­ing well – jeal­ousy of some­one who has been suc­cess­ful.

‘Tar­bert is a lovely vil­lage and it al­ways was. It’s a great place to bring up a fam­ily. Ninety-nine per cent of the peo­ple here are beau­ti­ful, but I guess like ev­ery other vil­lage it has two or three that, for want of a bet­ter word I would call be­grudgers. I have to say the guards did a bril­liant job on this.

‘They used hand­writ­ing ex­perts and all, and it shows that if you think you can hide be­hind anonymity you can’t. If you send poi­son pen let­ters you will be caught,’ he said.

Poi­son Pen: Alec Lan­gan sent the let­ter

row: Be­lieved to stem from a dis­pute over a right of way be­tween the lo­cal GAA club and land owned by Mr McEl­lig­ott

tar­get: Busi­ness­man Michael McEl­lig­ott

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