Four people who were involved in organising a wedding celebration that took place in a marquee in Longford last Wednesday have apologised in court and are each to pay €3,000 to charity.
They are the groom, William Stokes, his father Patrick Stokes of Willow Park, Strokestown Road, Longford, the groom's father-in-law Stephen Kelly of Railway Meadow, Longford, and Peter Volcella of Luigi's takeaway in Longford.
Judge Keenan Johnson had directed that the bride and groom, their parents, the marquee owner and caterers were to attend a special court sitting this afternoon to explain their decision to "flagrantly" breach public health guidelines.
As that hearing got under way this afternoon, the judge was told that there was only evidence that these four men were aware of the court order being served to remove the marquee, which had been erected for the celebration of William Stokes marriage to Shelby Kelly.
There were no witnesses who could prove to the court that the bride, her mother Geraldine Kelly, and mother-in-law Caroline Stokes as well as the owner of the marquee, Alan Horohoe of Ventura Marquee Hire were aware of the order being served.
Judge Johnson said that the hearing this afternoon was to deal only with alleged criminal contempt of the court order.
State Solicitor Mark Connellan indicated to the court that a separate file is being prepared by gardaí into the alleged breach of Covid-19 regulations.
Barrister Paul Gunning, representing the families involved in the wedding, said that all of his clients had come to court voluntarily and treated the court orders with the utmost seriousness.
He said that this was not a place that the couple wanted to be a few days after their wedding. He suggested to the court that a fulsome apology could be made and a financial contribution made to charity.
Judge Johnson said that this would perhaps be the best way of unlocking this "unsavoury situation".
He directed that each of the four men pay €3,000 and that the total sum would be divided equally between three local charities - St Christopher's School, the St Vincent de Paul, and hospice charities.
He asked that each of the men apologise in court, which they did. Mr Kelly said he was sorry for any wrongdoing he had done and Mr Stokes said he apologised to the judge and the people of Longford.
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Judge Keenan Johnson said that it is clear that the parties who are in contempt were determined to hold the wedding reception with a gathering in excess of the numbers permitted by the public health regulations, and that they did this with planning and premeditation.
It is also clear, he said, that when they were advised of the court injunction they made a conscious decision to ignore the court order and proceed with the reception, adding that such a course of action is wholly and utterly unacceptable in a civilised society where the rule of law and respect for court orders is essential for the maintenance of law and order.
Nobody is above the law, the judge said, adding that the actions of those before the court in defying a court order displayed tremendous defiance, arrogance, foolishness and selfishness on their part.
Travellers, the Judge said, have a very noble and rich culture of which they are justifiably proud, and he said there is little doubt that they have suffered and continue to suffer significant discrimination.
However, he said, the actions of the people before the court for contempt does little to further the cause of Travellers. He added that it has also damaged the very impressive and important work done by Pavee Point and others.
What was needed was respect, Judge Johnson said, adding that respect is a two-way street - respect by the settled community towards Travellers and respect by Travellers towards the settled community.
He said that unfortunately by proceeding with the wedding in defiance of public health regulations and in defiance of the court order, the parties in contempt had shown a gross lack of respect for frontline workers, gardaí, prison officers, supermarket workers, teachers and many others.
By ignoring the court order and proceeding with the wedding the parties before the court created the risk of a superspreader event which could turn Longford into a Covid-19 hotspot, the judge said.
He said their actions were reprehensible and are neither excusable nor justified.
The judge said the actions of the marquee supplier and the caterer are particularly offensive as they enabled this flagrant breach of the public health regulations to take place. "In particular, their actions were an insult to all the legitimate businesses who have complied at a great cost to themselves with the Covid regulations."
The court had heard that neither Longford County Council nor the gardaí had witnesses to prove the notice had been served on Alan Hanahoe of Ventura Marquee Hire. It is understood he did not get notification of the order until the day after the event.
Judge Johnson adjourned the case until 1 June, when, he said, he wanted evidence that the four parties concerned had contributed a sum of €3,000 to charity.