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Mother waits for final call to prison


Eddie O'Neill and Monica O'Connor with their kids Oran (13) and Elva (10) at their home near Tullow Co Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Eddie O'Neill and Monica O'Connor with their kids Oran (13) and Elva (10) at their home near Tullow Co Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Eddie O'Neill and Monica O'Connor with their kids Oran (13) and Elva (10) at their home near Tullow Co Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

A mother-of-two, who was informed she was going to be jailed by gardai last Thursday over not paying a fine relating to not sending her children to school, was left waiting when officers did not turn up to take her to prison.

Despite home-schooling her six children, Monica O'Connor and her husband Eddie O'Neill, from Tullow, Co Carlow, were both found guilty of failing to register two of their children for 
home-schooling purposes.

They were fined €2,000 by Carlow District Court in June of last year.

Fourteen months later they have not paid the fine and are now going to jail.

It is understood they will now become the first couple to face jail over a home-schooling issue.

For homeschooling to be approved children must be registered. It is an offence not to complete this registration process.

The couple were summonsed last year after they refused to register their children with the former National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) which is now Tusla.

Four warrants are out for their arrest for not paying the fine.

The couple expect to be jailed in the next two weeks.

Gardai were due to arrive at the house at 8.30 on Thursday morning.

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Monica said: "I'm not looking forward to it [jail] but it's an inevitability. It's the unknowable that I'm afraid of. If the gardai were not going to turn up they should have called me. I was keyed up and so were the children.

"This was a pre-arranged time for this to happen. Now all of us are left in limbo land again.

"We believe that what is happening to us is an attack on the family. We feel the State are trying to police every way of life. Our lives are being put on hold because of this. We just want this to end.

"We are standing up for a principle. Last weekend, I was in Dublin at the zoo with some of the children - and when I was driving up there, I thought to myself, that the next time I will be on this road I will be in the back of a garda car, heading to jail.

"I haven't been sleeping over the thoughts of going to jail - in fact I feel queasy every time I think about it. This was a pre-arranged time for this to happen."

Gardai have told them that the reason the officer did not arrive to arrest Monica, was that she was called away for training at the last minute.

Friends and family have been rallying around the couple to lend their support and give a helping hand while Monica is in jail. They have also received offers of legal representation from around the country after word spread that the couple were being jailed.

Their six children, Darragh (27), Oisin (20), Emmet (19), Oran (13), Elva (10) and Eamon (6) fully support their parents' actions.

Last week, gardai informed Monica and Eddie that they were to be jailed for non-payment of the outstanding fine.

Eddie faces jail soon after his wife is released.

Tusla said they do not comment on individual cases.

The couple have agreed that Monica will go to jail first for ten days to the Dochas Centre of Mountjoy Prison while Eddie will be going to the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.

"This is a real roller-coaster for us," Eddie added. "It's an attack on our family.

"A mother is meant to be the most important person in the nucleus of a family - and she is going to be taken away. Our family is not for sale."

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