Court told woman outside Covid-19 travel limit was observed at 'anti-mask' gathering
A woman who told a garda at a checkpoint that she was going to visit her sick mother was later observed at what was described to Nenagh District Court as an “anti-mask protest” outside the town’s courthouse.
Martina Gorham of 16 Elm Drive, Bloomfield, Annacotty, Limerick, was summonsed for breaching Covid-19 travel restrictions at Tullaheady, Nenagh, on January 27, 2021.
Garda Brian Mulcahy told the court that he was conducting a checkpoint at 9.58am when he stopped Ms Gorham.
He said Ms Gorham would not engage with him and said she did not recognise Covid-19 as an issue. She said she did not recognise Covid-19 legislation and that her constitutional rights were being breached.
He said that he used the four Es - engage, explain, encourage and enforce - while talking to Ms Gorham.
“She couldn’t give a reasonable excuse for being outside her 5km limit. I explained that to her and I didn’t let her through the checkpoint,” said Garda Mulcahy.
He said he told her she would have to return home.
However, he said that Ms Gorham then told him that she was going to visit her sick mother, so he allowed her to pass.
Garda Mulcahy later received a call from the sergeant at Nenagh Garda station to return to the town to attend what Garda Mulcahy said was an “anti-mask protest”.
“I observed Ms Gorham taking part and her car was parked in the courthouse car park,” he said. “She remained at the courthouse for approximately two hours.”
He subsequently issued a fixed notice penalty charge for €80 which was not paid.
Ms Gorham handed it a letter, dated July 22, 2021, in which she stated that “any further correspondence will be seen as harassment”.
Judge Elizabeth MacGrath asked Ms Gorham if she would like to cross-examine Garda Mulcahy, to which Ms Gorham replied: “Are you ignoring the letter?”
Judge MacGrath said: "You are here. It is a criminal matter. If you don’t want to cross-examine the garda, he can step down.”
Ms Gorham asked if the garda was aware that she had made an offer to pay at Thurles Garda station.
However, the court heard that she had offered to pay €5.
Ms Gorham asked: “What is an anti-mask protest? I was at no anti-mask demonstration. It is false to say I was.”
However, Garda Mulcahy again stated that Ms Gorham had been in the confines of the courthouse for about two hours and her car had been parked there.
“She was at a gathering,” he said.
Sgt Michael Keating, prosecuting, pointed out that the alleged offence had happened at Tullaheady and not in the grounds of the courthouse.
Ms Gorham did not go into evidence.
The court heard that the maximum fine under the legislation was €2,500.
Ms Gorham said that she was the mother of five children and occasionally worked in childcare, including for the Daughters of Charity.
“The Health Act has made a criminal out of a lot of people,” she said.
Judge MacGrath fined Ms Gorham €200 and set recognizance in her own bond of €250.
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