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