'Totally lawless' publican jailed
Judge lambasts man who has three convictions for breaching smoking ban
Published 11/03/2011 | 05:00
THE first person to be sentenced to a jail term for breaching the smoking ban told yesterday of his surprise at the verdict.
Bar owner Paul Finnegan told the Irish Independent he had no idea he had been sentenced to jail, until he saw his name in the newspapers yesterday morning. Just nine months ago he was in a very different position, when he scooped €126,000 on a National Lottery TV game show.
Mr Finnegan, who owns Shenanigans bar on Main Street in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, is facing three months in jail after a number of young people, including some in school uniform, were observed smoking on his premises last year.
At a sitting of Carrickmacross District Court this week, Judge Sean MacBride described Mr Finnegan as "totally lawless" and sentenced him to the jail term. He also fined him €2,000.
The separated father-of-two wasn't present for the hearing, but has spoken to his solicitor about the matter and intends to appeal. He said he cannot even consider going to jail. "I can't do that. My mother and father are sick and I can't leave them. I can't close my business down either."
Mr Finnegan said winning the National Lottery's 'Big Money Game' on June 5 last year brought him both goodwill and some begrudgery.
"Of course I did (experience some begrudgery) but generally people have been quite good, they say: 'Fair play to you, congratulations.' "
During the hearing, the court heard that Mr Finnegan had two previous convictions for breaching the smoking ban, and when an environmental health officer from the HSE visited Shenanigans pub last December, he saw people smoking on the premises. Some of who were wearing school uniforms.
Mr Finnegan said teenagers sometimes congregate near his pub in the evenings but claimed he is the victim of a "vendetta".
"At dinnertime, all the kids congregate in the alley beside me here and they're smoking in the alley around the door (of the pub) and eating chips and doing what kids do when they're 17 or 18. But even if the pub is closed, they'd be there. It's an awful way to be; all my taxes are paid, I have my tax-clearance cert here in the pub for anyone to see, the rent's paid, as are the water rates -- everything's paid," he said.
Mr Finnegan described his pub as "a lovely wee tidy place".
"There's three old women here now drinking tea, there's two old boys drinking Guinness, and there's one fella 65 years of age with one leg -- so, if that's lawless, I don't know what is."