Sunday 18 March 2018

Defamation claim by six women over bus fares is thrown out

Lost case: Martina Dardis
Lost case: Martina Dardis

Saurya Cherfi and Ray Managh

A judge has thrown out a claim for defamation by an extended Dublin family of six women - one of whom, Martina Dardis, lost an earlier social welfare claim when a court heard she had put more than €200,000 through her credit union account.

Martina Dardis (34), of Patrick Heeney House, Summerhill and her five fellow claimants alleged in the Circuit Civil Court that they had been defamed by Bus Éireann when accused of not having paid fares in June 2013, while travelling from Dublin to Knock, Co Mayo.

Judge James O'Donohoe dismissed the claims after hearing only two of the six women give evidence - Mary Murphy (59) of Carrington, Northwood, Santry, and her niece Jennifer Dardis (36), of North Strand Road.

He said their evidence was tainted by previous convictions for larceny, which had been brought to the court's notice by barrister for Bus Éireann, Jeri Ward. The court heard Jennifer Dardis had previous convictions for theft and having had possession of "some sort of weapon", and Mary Murphy had a previous conviction for theft.

Judge O'Donohoe said the incident arose during what would appear to have been a routine checking of people entering buses. He said six adult family members, including Bernadette Curtis, of Upper Gloucester Place; Joan Dardis, of North Strand Road; and Martina Curtis, of George Reynolds House, Irishtown, and four children had entered the bus.

Some of the adults had free travel passes.

Jennifer Dardis, who was travelling with two children, asked the bus driver if she could settle one of them who was sleeping before paying her fare and those of her children.

The driver told the court how, two minutes before departing, as nobody had come up to pay, he went towards the family and asked if somebody would mind paying the remaining fares. Jennifer Dardis told him she did not have to pay for the children. Gardaí were called and the family got off the bus.

Dismissing the six claims and awarding legal costs to Bus Éireann, the judge said he was satisfied Jennifer Dardis had caused the controversy.

In 2012, the Circuit Court dismissed an appeal by Martina Dardis against a decision by the social welfare deciding officer who had ruled she could not claim either single parent's allowance or a carer's allowance.

The court heard Martina Dardis had lodged more than €210,000, which came from unknown sources, in a credit union account over a number of years.

Irish Independent

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