A terrified single mum was taken by gardaí in a taxi from Donegal to Dublin for not paying the full fine on a TV licence offence.
However, after three hours in the women’s prison Dóchas, she was given a voucher for a bus home.
The woman, in her 40s, had paid €212 of a district court fine of €450 for not having a €160 TV licence.
Four other women in the prison cell had been committed for the same offence.
The taxi cost, one-way from Letterkenny to Dublin, was estimated at €350.
Her son was left in tears as gardaí arrived at their home to take his mother away.
“My 11-year-old son was crying his eyes out to see his mother being taken away in a Garda car,” she said. “Luckily my daughter is older and she was able to look after him.”
After the district court penalty had been imposed, she claimed she had an agreement in place to pay off the fine in instalments.
The woman said a garda gave her €212 in an envelope on the way to Dublin.
Although she accepted gardaí were doing their job, she was furious an order had been given to arrest her. “I couldn’t believe it when the gardaí called to my home and told me I was ‘for up the road’,” she said.
“I was terrified and distraught; I didn’t even have time to put my coat on.
“I had never been given any warning letter or anything. I was doing my best and I had almost half the fine paid back.”
She was taken to her local Garda station and then by taxi to Mountjoy in Dublin, stopping in Sligo for a cup of coffee and a cigarette.
The prison authorities were “more than nice” but that did not stop her from being terrified.
“I had never been in a prison in my life before. I was distraught,” she said. “Some of the other women were trying to calm me down.
“At one stage, one of the officers told me that I would be going home later and that settled me a bit. But for all I knew I could have been there for a week.”
She and three others from Louth, Dundalk, and Galway were given Bus Éireann vouchers and made their way to the city centre.
“We managed to get lost and I was a bit calmer at this stage but I still just wanted to get home to my children,” said the woman.
When she arrived home at around 9pm, her children were lying on her bed in a distraught state.
Gary Doherty, a member of Donegal County Council, described the woman’s plight as “a major scandal”.
He claimed the authorities were in breach of the Fines Bill, amended last year to allow people time to pay smaller fines.
Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Padraig Mac Lochlainn and Mr Doherty have sought a meeting with Garda chiefs in Letterkenny.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved