A woman has been spared a jail sentence for unlawfully getting €30,000 in disability allowance payments in Ireland while she lived in Australia for two years.
Marije Nika, 49, a Kosovar refugee with an address at Cardy Rock Square, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, was prosecuted by the Department of Social Protection.
Nika, who fled her war-torn country and came to Ireland in 2000, pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to a charge under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act.
Prosecution solicitor, Joseph Maguire, said the woman failed to notify the social welfare office that she was living in Australia from 2012 until 2014.
During that time, she continued to claim the disability allowance and obtained €29,996, but has repaid €6,800. She claimed that she went there to look after her sick adult daughter.
She still gets the benefit, but €28 is deducted weekly, at which rate it will take 16 years to pay back the money. Her daughter contacted Balbriggan social welfare office, who then investigated the matter.
Nika confirmed to them that she had been living in Australia.
Defence counsel, Genevieve Coonan, told the court that Nika was from Kosovo and was forced to leave in 2000 with her husband, a vet. They stayed at the Mosney centre for asylum seekers. The couple were in straitened circumstances. After Mosney, they settled in Balbriggan. Nika suffered from depression and back problems and was entitled to the disability payment.
Counsel said the woman moved to Australia in 2012, because her daughter had been sick.
She is remorseful that during that time she took an allowance paid for by Irish taxpayers, the barrister said.
Judge John Brennan heard that she gets €300 a week, but was “living at the edge”.
Nika was reluctant to raise the repayments, but later the court was told she was agreeable to €60 a week.
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