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Monday 16 December 2019

Dublin priest arrested in New York on Paddy's Day 'had half ounce of meth'

Fr Michael O’Leary was arrested in New York on St Patrick’s Day
Fr Michael O’Leary was arrested in New York on St Patrick’s Day

A priest from Dublin was arrested in the US on St Patrick's Day allegedly in possession of half an ounce of methamphetamine and weighing scales.

The clergyman's legal woes have also caused delays with a separate court case at home involving his family.

New York-based Fr Michael O'Leary (50) was arrested by police in Peekskill, New York, in the early hours of March 17 after they found him and another man, Alberto Calderon (27), from Brooklyn, in a vehicle.

Investigating officers claim they recovered methamphetamine, two scales and other materials used for packaging narcotics following a search of the vehicle.

Fr O'Leary is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia and the criminal possession of a controlled substance, and is currently remanded on bail.

Dismissed

According to reports in the US, he has been without an assignment since November 29, 2018, when the archdiocesan Review Board determined he was not suitable for ministry.

"Fr O'Leary's persistent disobedience, his manifest lack of suitability for ministry and his arrest for possession of illegal drugs compel Cardinal Dolan to submit the matter to the Holy See (the Congregation for the Clergy) with a firm request that Fr O'Leary be dismissed from the clerical state," the decree said.

The case came to light after a separate dispute between him and his siblings in the High Court here could not go ahead due to the arrest.

Brothers and sisters Nora Harpur, Barry O'Leary, Tadgh O'Leary and Marie O'Leary have brought unrelated proceedings against both the priest and their other brother, John O'Leary.

The action is aimed at setting aside the will of their late mother, Elizabeth O'Leary, who died in September 2014.

The four plaintiffs seek an order condemning a will made by the late Ms O'Leary, of Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin 4, in 2009 - on the grounds that she was not of sound mind when it was executed. It is claimed the family home was left to the defendants and the residue of the estate was left to the other siblings.

It is also alleged that undue influence was exerted over the late Ms O'Leary by the defendants when she was preparing the 2009 will.

The claims are denied.

The case had been fixed for hearing later this month, and Fr O'Leary was expected to give evidence.

Last week, lawyers for Fr O'Leary asked Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds, who is in charge of the High Court's chancery division, to adjourn the case as it was not possible for their client to attend court due to "a somewhat sensitive" matter.

This was revealed to be the drug charges and a 90-day residential drug rehabilitation programme in New York.

Despite their best efforts, his lawyers have had very little communication with Fr O'Leary since his arrest and his rehab will not be completed until mid-July.

They added that it would be prejudicial to Fr O'Leary to interrupt his rehabilitation.

Treatment

He is due back before a New York court for the drugs charges later this month, where he is hopeful that his past good behaviour and treatment may earn leniency if he is convicted.

The lawyers are unclear about the terms of Fr O'Leary's bail, but believe it would be unlikely he would be able to travel to attend at the High Court.

His lawyers added that despite being unable to get firm instructions, they are concerned that Fr O'Leary is unlikely to be emotionally or psychologically ready to address the complex issues raised in the will dispute.

Ms Justice Reynolds expressed the court's displeasure at the adjournment application, especially the lack of the detail on Fr O'Leary's future availability, but said the case could not go ahead as scheduled.

She adjourned the matter of fixing a new date to next week, hoping that Fr O'Leary's lawyers could find out more about the US court proceedings.

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