By Gordon Deegan
A Co Clare man in his 70s has admitted in court that he followed his wife to a dance after receiving a mystery call that she was getting lifts home from the dance.
At the Family Law court in Ennis, solicitor, Colum Doherty, for the man in question told the woman “your husband has concerns that you travel in the back of a van with another man”.
The woman denied this stating that she was getting a lift home to save the price of a taxi from the dance from an Ennis hotel and accused her husband of ‘stalking’ her at the dance.
The woman in her 60s made her claim during an unsuccessful application for a Safety Order against her husband of more than 40 years.
In evidence, the woman said that her husband used to turn off the ESB connection to the home to prevent her listening to the radio and turn off the TV when she was watching her favourite soap operas, Fair City, Home & Away and Eastenders.
This was denied by the man in evidence. The couple has been for the past seven years separated - though not legally- but living in the same house.
Explaining why he followed his wife to the dance, the man said: “I got a phone call one night and it was from a woman and it was a faint voice and she said ‘you would want to go down and see what your wife is doing, she is going home in vans’.”
He said: “That was the end of the conversation, it was a private number. I went to the hotel and I was there a half an hour before it was over. She came out and went into the back of a van that had no safety belt, no nothing and she was put into it like a sack of spuds or a bag of coal.”
He said: “I went to the driver of the van and I said ‘do you know that is my wife going home in the back of the van?’ and he said ‘I don’t know whose wife she is’.”
On turning off the ESB, the man said: “She keeps her room locked full time. There has been no radio in the kitchen for the past seven years and I can’t turn off something that it is not there - it is locked in the room.”
The man told the court:
The woman was bringing the Safety Order application after an alleged recent flashpoint between the couple on the street in a town.
The woman said that she was going to visit by bus a relative in Ennis and her husband approached her and told her that she was “an effing whore and all sorts of rude words”.
She told the court: “It made me feel awful ashamed. I was afraid of him.”
Mr Doherty said that his client doesn’t like seeing his wife going off in the bus.
In reply, she said: “I have a free pass and I am not making enough use of it.”
In evidence, the man denied verbally abusing his wife. He said: “I have never raised my voice to her. I am not one for roaring and shouting.”
He said: “I told her ‘I thought you were coming back to cook the dinner?’ and she told me ‘no, I am going into Ennis’
The man told the court: “She never tells you when she is leaving. She just walks out the door and she doesn't care if you like or don’t like it.”
Solicitor for the woman, Pamela Clancy said that her client would not consider mediation as what happened on the street is part of chronic behaviour by the husband.
Ms Clancy said: “There has been no relationship since 2012 but there is ongoing abusive behaviour. Gardaí have been called and without a Safety Order they say, there is not much they can do.”
Ms Clancy said that her client previously brought a Safety Order application in 2012 and an undertaking was provided to the court by the husband at that time.
Ms Clancy said that the man has a problem accepting that the marriage is over and asked him was he entitled to know where his wife was and he replied: “I think I am.”
Judge Durcan told the man that he was married more than 40 years ago when he had a certain view of the obligations of a wife to a husband “and the world has changed”.
The husband replied: “As far as I concerned, it hasn’t changed on my part.”
In giving his ruling, Judge Durcan said: “This is a very sad case and I have great sympathy for both parties.”
Judge Durcan said that he would encourage the parties to formalise their separation.
On the street incident at the centre of the Safety Order application, Judge Durcan said that there was a complete conflict in the evidence.
He said that it wasn’t a case where he could make a Safety Order. He said: "Ye should bring matters to a head but not in the context of the Domestic Violence Act."