Unlicensed bus firm escapes conviction with charity donation
A ROW erupted yesterday after a private bus company which operated a passenger service without a licence escaped a conviction by making a donation to charity.
Irish Citylink ComfortDelGro Ltd, a subsidiary of the second largest transport company in the world, faced two charges of operating a direct passenger service between Galway city and Dublin city without a licence last October.
In evidence heard before Galway District Court last month, Public Vehicle Inspector, Sgt Anthony McHugh said he had travelled on the Citylink bus from Galway to Dublin on the morning of October 19 last year. The bus had travelled directly to Dublin city centre without stopping.
He later travelled back to Galway city on the Citylink bus and it was again a non-stop journey.
Some days later he received confirmation from the Department of Transport that Irish Citylink did not hold an annual licence to operate a non-stop Galway-Dublin and Dublin-Galway passenger service.
Counsel for Citylink argued that the letter from the department made no reference to the date of the alleged offences, but simply stated some days later that the company did not have an annual licence. The company also argued that the certificate from the department had not been signed by a duly authorised officer.
Judge Mary Fahy deferred a decision on the submission until yesterday when she told counsel for Citylink that she was now satisfied that the company had a case to answer.
After hearing further submissions by barrister Mark Lynam on behalf of Citylink, Judge Fahy said she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the State's case had been proved.
The judge was advised that the penalty in the case -- covered by an act dating back to 1932 -- was for a fine of €63.49, the equivalent of the old IR£50.
Mr Lynam asked the judge to consider not imposing a conviction, but instead accept a financial contribution to charity. A sum of €3,000 was in court if this was acceptable, the court was told.
Judge Fahy said she would be disposed to the proposed arrangement if the gardai agreed.
She was advised that the company had no previous convictions and had since gained a licence for the non-stop service.
Judge Fahy said that, in light of the fact that matters had been regularised and that the company was providing a valuable service, she would apply the Probation Act and have the money distributed among a number of charities. The case was attended by representatives of Bus Eireann and GoBus.ie, a private company which was the first to operate a non-stop bus service between Galway and Dublin.
Both were clearly annoyed at the outcome of the case; and while the Bus Eireann representative declined to comment, GoBus.ie managing director Jim Burke slammed the court's decision.
"It was a total farce. Citylink only got a licence last Thursday. They are being rewarded for acting illegally over the last six months," Mr Burke said.
In a statement, welcoming the court's decision, Citylink said the company was proud to have its headquarters in Galway And of the part it played as an important service provider to west of Ireland communities.
In its nine years of operation, Citylink had never been found to be in breach of Irish law and had always sought to engage constructively with the Department of Transport, the company said.