Waterford couple asked to leave shop for not wearing face masks to take legal action

Couple 'humiliated' when they were asked to leave the retail premises despite having a letter from GP stating they have complex medical needs which means they are exempt
Waterford couple asked to leave shop for not wearing face masks to take legal action

Catherine and Nick Shine have complex medical needs, which means they are exempt from wearing face masks.

A couple with complex medical needs who were left “shocked and dismayed” after they were asked to leave a shop for not wearing face masks are to take legal action.

Catherine and Nick Shine, parents to three young children, from Portlaw, Co Waterford, went to an electrical shop on Saturday afternoon to replace their kettle.

When they entered the shop in Waterford City, the couple claim they were the only two customers in the retail premises. They were not wearing masks, which are required by law due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The couple were approached by a staff member, who asked them to please wear face masks. When the couple said they were medically exempt from doing so, and that they had their letters from their GP with them explaining why they could not wear the masks, they were told that was fine.

Complex medical needs

The couple both have complex medical needs which are outlined in their medical letters from their GP.

However, a short time later the shop manager approached the couple, informing them he wanted to see their medical letters and that they must wear their face masks.

Catherine, 29, explained: “We were treated in an appalling manner and we will take legal action against the shop owners.

"I told the manager that his colleague said that it was OK for us to be in the shop without masks when we told him we were medically exempt. I explained under legislation that I was not obliged to prove nor was my husband that we were exempt but that we were both only coming out for an essential purpose.

I, along with my husband was then asked to leave the shop, which we weren’t happy doing. So we suggested to him that perhaps the gardaí could be called to clear up the matter.

“We had been so excited to get out for a short time. We both felt so discriminated against, shocked and upset. We are good people, did nothing wrong, we show respect to others and all we ask for is a little bit of respect back. I just don’t understand what happened.” 

Gardaí can fine or bring to court anyone they have reasonable grounds to believe is not exempt from wearing a face mask.

Gardaí were called

The gardaí were called by the shop manager and officers arrived on the scene a short time later.

Gardai confirmed two officers attended an incident at a premises in Waterford city. In a statement they said: “Gardaí attended an incident where two people refused to wear masks at a retail premises on March 27 at 2.20pm.

“When Gardaí arrived, both persons produced letters of exemption based on medical grounds. No offences [were] disclosed.” 

In response the shop manager said the gardaí were investigating the matter and that they would not be making any comment.

Catherine, who is a homemaker and her 31-year-old husband, who works for an insurance company, intend to seek legal advice on the incident.

Needless to say, we were then told we could stay by gardaí but after what occurred we just left because we felt so humiliated and just wanted to ground to open up and swallow us. 

"We don’t want to be flouting any law either and we are trying to follow all the rules but we just feel so bad over what happened.

“We feel bad because we wasted police time but the Government needs to be a lot clearer on their messaging around face mask wearing and exemptions. There seems to be a growing prejudice towards people who can’t wear face coverings”.

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