Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said “common sense” should prevail in a case where a 90-year-old Dublin woman was handed a fine of €1,500 for putting up a satellite dish outside her home, in breach of planning laws.
The matter was raised in the Dail by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin during the Order of Business.
Mr Martin asked that a common sense clause be introduced to the Planning and Development Bill.
He said: “Is this what we have come to? All of us around this House have heard of numerous cases where councils failed to enforce against
people who flagrantly disregarded planning laws, yet a 90 year old woman was taken to court over a satellite dish which she got as a birthday present.”
In response, Mr Kenny said: “The Planning and Development Bill does not need a clause that requires common sense. I do not know the
details of the senior citizen in question but I have heard the headlines on the radio.”
“Clearly, anybody dealing with an issue like that should be able to apply a measure of common sense and not have this end up in court,” he said.
Anne Rudd from St Enda's Road in Terenure in Dublin avoided a criminal conviction but will have to pay €1,500 towards Dublin City
Council's legal costs for taking her to court.
She was prosecuted by Dublin City Council for failing to remove the satellite dish within the required time after an enforcement notice was served earlier this year.
At Dublin District Court this morning Ms Rudd's daughter, Ann Claxton, said Dublin City Council was aware it was dealing with a 90-year-old woman.
Ms Rudd had been sent an enforcement notice requiring her to remove the satellite dish by the end of June. The dish was removed at the end
of July. She was sent a summons last month charged with an offence under section 154 of the Planning and Development Act.
James Cosgrave, a planning enforcement officer with Dublin City Council told the court he began an investigation last February after receiving a complaint about satellite dishes on a number of houses along the same route.
After her case was heard, Mrs Rudd told RTE's Joe Duffy she was in "fighting form".
Speaking to RTE Radio One's 'Liveline' programme, she told broadcaster Joe Duffy the satellite dish that was the subject of the case was a present.
"I said it was just a satellite and it was to replace an old one," she told Joe.
"Actually it was a present, I said, for my birthday."
The pensioner, who was accompanied by her daughter Anne Claxton to court and other family members, was originally looking at paying legal costs of €2,000. However, this was reduced to €1,500.
Mrs Rudd receives a weekly pension of €240, she told Joe.
"If it had went for €2,000, well I'd be a criminal I believe," she told the programme.
When Joe asked her if she would have been prepared to go to prison, Mrs Rudd said she was prepared on a matter of principle for the "whole thing and the way it was handled. The letters I got".
When the broadcaster asked if any staff member from Dublin City Council had called to her house to tell her the satellite dish was in breach of planning laws, she replied: "Never Joe. No, if they had came to the door and explained the situation, I would have had that taken down immediately."
After leaving Dublin District Court, her daughter Anne found out their car, which was parked on Green Street, had been clamped and they had to pay €80 for it to be released. The family believed their parking ticket was valid. "They [the council] had a very good day out of our family," Anne Claxton told 'Liveline' listeners.
Earlier today, Dublin District Court heard from the council that they warned the pensioner as far as back as February to remove the satellite dish which they said was in breach of planning laws as it was on the front of the house.
The council told the court an enforcement notice was issued in May. The council said the dish remained in place until July.
Court proceedings were then issued - the dish was removed but not within the time limit, the court was told.
The council said their planning enforcement officer did allow some leniency towards Mrs Rudd.
Mrs Rudd's daughter Anne Claxton told the court her mother did not understand the first warning letter, and the family only became aware of the situation in June.