The first two pubs to be successfully prosecuted for breaching the smoking ban in the mid-west region have each been ordered to pay almost €2,000 in fines and legal costs.
Hanley's bar in Kilteely, Co Limerick, and Nolans bar, Nicholas Street, Limerick city, are the first two pubs to be successfully prosecuted by the Mid Western Health Board for breaching the ban which came into effect just under a year ago.
Limerick District Court heard today, that Senior Environmental Health Officers from the Mid Western Health Board visited both pubs on the evening of September 18 last year and found customers openly smoking inside both premises.
At 9.15pm when the inspectors called to Nolan's bar in Nicholas Street they found a group of men and women smoking inside the main body of the bar, the court heard.
Senior Environmental Health Officer James Cahill told Judge Tom O'Donnell that he warned the bar manager that he was in breach of the ban but when the inspectors returned 20 minutes later they found five men smoking inside the bar.
Mr Cahill said there was a "large volume" of cigarette butts on the floor of the pub and there was a strong smell of tobacco inside the premises.
The Health Board witness rejected claims by the defence that the bar manager could not see the customers who were smoking and disagreed with suggestions that "they were not in his line of vision".
Defence solicitor Grainne Hanly said her client was trying to comply with the regulations and had started to make inquries about building a smoking area at the back of the premises.
Judge O'Donnell heard that the same health officers visited Hanley's Bar in Kilteely, Co Limerick at 11.10pm that same night where they saw five men smoking inside the bar which is located on the main street in the village.
Mr Cahill told the court that there were a number of ashtrays on the bar counter and that "smoke was visible" inside the bar.
The Health Officer said when he spoke to William Hanly the owner of the bar, the publican said that he was "waiting for something to happen, either for the Minister to amend the leglislation or for the health inspectors to arrive".
Defence solicitor for Mr Hanley, Sarah Ryan, said her client was operating a small country pub which was "serving a rural community" and that the five men found smoking on the premises were "regulars".
Before imposing the fine Judge O'Donnell said "the law is the law" and, despite Mr Hanley's hopes, there hadn't been any ammendments to the smoking ban legislation.
He fined Mr Hanley €1,000 and also ordered him to pay costs of €720.
Rossbevan Inns trading as Nolan's Bar on Nicholas Street in Limerick were also fined the same amount and ordered to pay similar costs.