Mossie Clery: supporters are rallying around to help the farmer avoid a return to prison

A 72-year-old farmer who owes €400,000 to his neighbour will sit down this week in a final bid to flesh out a deal that could prevent the forced sale of his land or even a prison term.

Supporters of pensioner Mossie Clery say they are determined that he will not repeat his previous year-and-a-half stint behind bars, but fundraising efforts to assist him have fallen far short.

The Limerick farmer owes former neighbour David O'Connor the outstanding sum since he was first awarded €249,000 in 1993 for an accident on Clery's farm, but tomorrow the two parties will agree upon a mediator to try and resolve the 17-year dispute.

Spiralling legal fees incurred by Clery since the beginning of the civil action have meant that he has not been able to meet his commitments, despite even selling his late mother's property.

Supporters who have rallied around the bachelor in a bid to help him meet his debt through fundraising said they hoped he could avoid going back to jail. They also said the sale of his land would not be possible against a backdrop of local opposition.

"It was the lesser of two evils," said friend John Walsh in reference to the mediation proposal over another period of incarceration.

"We have to go up to Dublin on Monday to find out which [mediator] it is. The court will have the final say. I think they will negotiate between the two parties. I would say they are happy to come to some kind of compromise."

The victim, David O'Connor, was in court when Justice Finlay Geoghegan gave her direction and both parties were asked to select two mediators apiece.

Both must be a qualified legal practitioner as well as a mediator in order to satisfy the court.

It is likely that a future date will be set tomorrow, allowing a reasonable amount of local mediation to take place before the next appearance, with a view to making some impasse in the standoff.

Clery has previously served a 19-month jail term after failing to hand over the deeds to his land which could have been used to meet the debt.

He paid over €140,000 to O'Connor in the past but the outstanding amount, together with interest incurred and legal fees, is now in the region of €700,000.

Counsel for O'Connor said they were not seeking that amount, however, but wished to secure €400,000, the same amount as the value of his farm.