Judge apologises for calling social welfare a Polish charity
A judge and wife of a former TD was forced to make an embarrassing apology yesterday after making a bizarre comment alluding to the Polish community in Ireland.
District Court Judge Mary Devins issued the apology through the Courts Service yesterday after the 'Mayo News' ran a story on Tuesday in which she alluded to the Department of Social Welfare as a Polish charity.
She made the comment last Friday when she was presiding over the sentencing of a Co Mayo man at Claremorris District Court.
The man was charged with a public-order offence after he had to be restrained by security staff outside a local bar in which he called a bouncer "a fat Polish f***er" and "fat Polish "p***k" -- even though the bouncer was Irish.
The original judge in the case, who adjourned the hearing from last October, had given the accused time to come up with €1,000 to pay to a suitable Polish charity.
At the sentencing hearing on Friday, Judge Devins was told enough time had been given to find a suitable Polish charity, to which she replied: "There is. It's called social welfare."
In her "clarification" of her comments yesterday, she said: "My recent comment in court was made in the context of -- and alluding to -- another recent, violent, alcohol-fuelled incident involving several defendants of Polish origin who were all recipients of social-welfare payments.
"The comment was intended to be specific to that incident and occurrence and was never intended to offend any community or members of any community. If insult was taken from my comment, I apologise for same."
Officials from the Polish embassy were unavailable for comment last night.
The judge has courted controversy in the past after a councillor took her to task for parking on double yellow lines outside the Ballinrobe, Co Mayo courthouse where she was presiding.
Independent county councillor Harry Walsh, from Ballinrobe, told the 'Western People' newspaper in 2009: "Lawmakers should not be lawbreakers."
He still stood by his comments after the Courts Service had said the judge was advised by gardai to park directly outside the courthouse for security reasons.
Judge Devins is married to former Fianna Fail TD Jimmy Devins, who was elected to Sligo-North Leitrim in 2002.
He was appointed to the position of junior minister with responsibility for disability and mental health in 2007.
But in 2009, he resigned the party whip in protest at the closure of the breast-cancer screening programme at Sligo General Hospital.