Almost €1.3 million was paid into the court poor box in 2015 in lieu of or in mitigation of convictions and fines, predominantly in the District Courts.

The money has been distributed among over 700 charities and causes.

Further sums were ordered to be paid by defendants directly to charities, according to the Courts Service, which has released the Poor Box details.

The total €1,291,397 has gone to 724 charities, agencies and individuals.

The beneficiaries as well as the amounts vary greatly ranging from the Ballina Salmon Festival which got €300 from the local court, to a sum of €2,000 to the Youghal Lifeboat from the courts there, to €40,000 for Action Aid Ireland from the Kerry courts in Tralee.

The option of the poor box is at the discretion of the presiding judge and in most cases it is the judge who decides where the money goes.

The total monies collected in 2015 have dropped significantly on the previous year.

In 2014, a total of €2.18m was advanced in return for mitigating penalty for mainly minor offences.

As well as public order offences, the poor box is sometimes used for first time road traffic offences, as well as minor drug offences and offences against animals and property, the courts service said in a statement.

It said: "When combined with the Probation of Offenders Act it provides an option where some financial penalty is considered merited but a conviction and fine are not."

There have been a number of moves to scrap the poor box, which predates the State and whose origins are obscure.

In 2005 the Law Reform Commission recommended a combined reform of the poor box and Probation Act; and in early 2014 then Justice Minister Alan Shatter proposed to replace it with a reparation fund for the victims of crime.

In 2014, the High Court ruled it should not be given as an option to avoid conviction in motoring offences involving penalty points and attracting mandatory penalty.