A DUNDALK man who received a littering fine after visiting his wife's grave has hit out at Louth County Council after he claims he was 'treated disrespectfully' by an official after he tried to explain the circumstances of the incident.
Pat Cullen from Medebawn lost his wife, Patricia, to Motor Neurone Disease last year and has visited her grave at St. Patrick's cemetery every day since. Mr. Cullen received a fixed penalty notice from the council after a letter addressed to the couple was found in a skip at the cemetery in June.
Mr. Cullen explained what happened. 'I go out to Patricia's grave every morning around the same time. I have a habit of picking up rubbish that is left around the path at the graveyard and putting it into the skip that's there. This particular morning, I had picked up my post on the way out the door and, wrongfully, put it into the skip along with other waste I picked up at the graveyard'.
Just days later, fixed penalty notices in the his name and that of his wife were issued and sent to his address. Mr. Cullen claims that when he contacted an official about the issue, he was left very upset by remarks made by the council man. The widower's appeal against the fine was unsuccessful and he paid €150 last month, accepting that he made a mistake by putting his letter into the skip.
But it is the alleged treatment that has left a bitter taste in Mr. Cullen's mouth.
'I was very upset by what was said to me and how it was said. There was a complete lack of understanding about where I was coming from and what I was asking and I felt it was unfair and insensitive.
'I wasn't really annoyed about the fine but it was the manner in which I was spoken to that has caused me the upset'.
Mr. Cullen also wanted the issue highlighted publicly because of the skip problem at the St Patrick's site.
'There is a lot of confusion about what the skip is for. I used to put rubbish that was in the graveyard into it, but since I'm not doing that any more, some of the paths can become very littered'.
A spokesperson for Louth County Council said that, while the authority wouldn't comment on individual cases, 'The local authority has in place a complaints procedure and where a complaint is received in respect of a service delivery issue or in regard to how a member of staff managed a particular incident the matter is dealt with and a formal decision on the matter issued.
'The use of the skips in St Patrick's cemetery is intended for the disposal of graveside materials such as flower or plants and grass cuttings by those tending their loved ones' graves. The skips are not for the disposal of domestic or other waste'.