A farmer who "lost the plot" reduced Steiner primary school children on a St Brigid’s Day nature walk to tears after calling them "retards", a court has heard.
At Killaloe District Court sitting in Ennis, Judge Mary Larkin said Breda Moloney (66) “scared the living daylights out of a bunch of people who did her no wrong” at Ballymalone, Tuamgraney in east Clare on January 28, 2022.
Judge Larkin said: “These children were completely innocent… I have never heard of anyone being subjected to this kind of abuse because of someone's inherent resentment and anger.”
Judge Larkin said Ms Moloney “lost the plot and she has a record of losing the plot” and described the incident as "extraordinary".
The judge said during the morning incident, Ms Moloney was “incensed” and told a neighbouring farmer, Regine Roskam “the most unbelievable things when telling her ‘how her parents-in-law got cancer, that they got what they deserved and how they should rot in hell’”.
Ms Moloney also called French national and a resident here for 32 years Ms Roskam “a f**king foreigner”. Ms Roskam is also a teacher at the Steiner Community-based Raheen Wood Community NS.
Judge Larkin said she was absolutely satisfied that Ms Moloney’s “conduct was reckless and a breach of the peace” and convicted her of the public order offence, binding her to the peace for 12 months.
A teacher at Raheen Wood Community National School, Mary Jo Kennedy, told the court that in celebration of St Brigid’s Day, 21 of the school's pupils aged between 11 and 12, along with one other teacher and three parents, were to go to lands owned by school teacher Regine Roskam to pick rushes and reeds for Brigid’s Day crosses.
Ms Kennedy said while on the public road, the group saw Ms Moloney “and from the get-go, she was screaming”.
Ms Kennedy said: “She said that 'we were trespassing, that we were on her land' and called us ‘effing hippies and called the children retards’.
“It was shocking. Some of the kids were crying, they were upset. Everyone hears cursing but not at that level. The children were being called names they should never really have heard and being referred to in that manner and hearing their teachers spoken to in that manner."
“I found it incredibly offensive that she was calling the children I was with 'retards'.
“I felt scared because I was in charge of these children and this woman’s behaviour was endangering the children. It was horrible to hear language like that in front of children because we always really model positive language."
Ms Kennedy said eight of the children were very upset and did not feel safe going to a farmer’s field for the rushes and they were brought back to school. She added the remaining children did not proceed up the road to the Roskam’s lands and instead went to another farm to collect the rushes.
In her evidence, Ms Roskam said on the date she could, from her land, hear screaming at about 10am and went down the road to see what was happening. She said when she came to the scene “I could see that some of the kids were crying and very upset”.
Ms Roskam said Breda Moloney then told her “I was a f**king foreigner and to go back where you came from”. She said Ms Moloney then told her: “You killed my cow and you poisoned her”.
Ms Roskam said: “She said ‘both your parents-in-law died of cancer, they deserved that and may they rot in hell’. I got very upset so I just saw there was no point in talking to her. I never had any personal issues with Breda Moloney — she has had loads of issues with my husband and my late parents-in-law."
Garda Robert O’Grady told the court he arrived at the scene after receiving a report of people trespassing around Breda Moloney’s property. Garda O’Grady told the court “the level of anger from Breda Moloney was over the top with children present”.
He said: “Breda Moloney was the agitator and the only one angry at the scene. My understanding was that it was a public road where it all took place.”
In evidence, Breda Moloney denied calling the children "retards" and denied the public order summons.
She said: “No. I didn’t know the children. I didn’t know where they came from. They weren’t small children, they were fairly big. It wouldn’t be in me to carry out like that. I don’t carry out like that. I have been wronged in my life.
“The people that gave evidence here today are swearing perjury.”
Ms Moloney also denied using any words that were threatening or abusive or with any intent to cause a breach of the peace. The farmer said she only told the group to “get off my lands”.
Asked did she say those words to Ms Roskam about her late parents-in-law, Ms Moloney said: "I don't know what they died of...I didn't say that."
Sergeant Louis Moloney said Ms Moloney has 17 previous convictions, including three for breach of the peace and one for animal cruelty. Solicitor for Ms Moloney, Daragh Hassett, told the court he has known Ms Moloney for a long time.
He said: “She is not everyone's cup of tea but she is a nice lady. Life hasn’t been good to her or her sister. They were left managing the homestead when their parents died. Mr Hassett said Ms Moloney and her sister do their best to eke out a living from the land and they live in a caravan.
Mr Hassett said: “She feels that people look down on her so much and hadn't the courtesy to say that they were coming up the road. My client is in poor health, and every type of illness and disease that could be visited upon a person she has got.”