The incident drew widespread condemnation from the Cork Business Association and public representatives. It occurred just days after politicians called for an easing of the city’s “aggressive” parking control regime.
Sr Brendan (Mary O’Driscoll), a Mercy nun who lives on the Model Farm Road, parked her Toyota Yaris illegally on Liberty Street, behind the Washington Street Courthouse, at 11am yesterday.
Despite the fact that cars owned by court officers park on the footpath and plaza area at the front of the courthouse every day without sanction, Sr Brendan’s car was towed to the pound within 15 minutes.
Sr Brendan, who walks with the aid of a stick, parked partially on the footpath and walked down North Main Street to the religious goods shop, Roman House to buy a candle for a nephew who is making his Communion soon.
She returned to Liberty Street and discovered her car was gone.
Businessman Justin Cronin, who came to her aid, said: “She thought it had been stolen. I rang the car pound and explained the situation and asked them to drop the car back.
“They said she’d have to get a taxi to the pound to get it back. So I drove her up to the pound and was willing to pay the €160 for her. But they gave it back to her free of charge. I just did what anyone would do.
“But this kind of thing is scaring people from coming into the city centre. Fine, her car was parked illegally but there has to be some discretion,” he added.
Lord Mayor Michael Ahern (Labour) said it appeared to have been a “very harsh” way to treat Sr Brendan.
“Laws can come down harshly on certain people. We all have goodwill towards nuns. But if it was only 15 minutes, and she wasn’t blocking the footpath, on the face of it, it seems harsh.”
Cllr Jerry Buttimer (FG), whose party called last week for an easing of the city’s parking control policy, said he was “horrified” at the incident.
“This is draconian. We are trying to create a friendly city and this sends of the wrong message. We have to give people a period of grace,” he said.
City officials defended the actions of Control Plus, the company employed to enforce the city’s clamping and towing policy.
“My view is that it’s unsatisfactory to have cars parked on any footpath,” a spokesman said.
“We seek to implement our parking control policy in a fair and equitable way and under our terms, this car was a candidate for towing,” he said.
Parking issues at the front of the courthouse are a matter for gardaí, he said.