Penitent pilgrim raises €2,900 after Croagh Patrick sentence
A MAN ordered to climb Ireland's holiest mountain as penance for swearing at a garda was praised by a judge for using the opportunity to raise €2,900 for charity.
A repentant Joseph McElwee (33), of Aughavennan, Rathmullan, Co Donegal, appeared before Milford District Court Judge Seamus Hughes yesterday with photographic evidence that he had reached the summit of Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo.
He also presented the court with a cheque for €2,900, raised from sponsorship and to be divided between hospitals in counties Donegal and Mayo.
McElwee had pleaded guilty to a number of public order offences which occurred outside a pub in his native village. They included failure to comply with the direction of a garda.
In the course of the exchange, a drunken McElwee, who was with two others, launched a tirade of abuse at a garda, telling him to go back to Co Mayo.
The Mayo-born judge directed McElwee to undertake to climb the holy mountain and to do the four stations of Croagh Patrick at its summit, as a mark of respect for his fellow Irish people, especially those in the line of duty.
In court in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Kieran O'Gorman, solicitor for McElwee, assured the judge that his client had "climbed the reek".
He handed in pictures showing McElwee, his wife and 12 friends on top of the famed mountain with the gable of the church in the background.
The judge was also assured that McElwee had enjoyed the experience and had raised €2,900 for charity in the process. The money is to be equally divided between the Donegal Hospice and the Adult Mental Health Services at Mayo General Hospital on the judge's recommendation.
"I commend you for the way you have turned it around and taken the opportunity to raise money.
"Quite clearly there is a therapeutic exercise in climbing the reek and the time spent up there to think.
"You deserved every commendation," he said.
McElwee told the judge he had found the publicity that the case had attracted very difficult.
"It has been a very traumatic time for my family, especially my eight-year-old son," he said.
The judge added that he hoped McElwee had learned his lesson.
"When you come to a pub in the beautiful village of Rathmullan and take your first breath of sea air from Lough Swilly and you see a garda standing there, you will realise they are there for your protection," he said.
"That's fair enough," replied McElwee.