A judge sent three fathers to the cells at Ennis Courthouse in less than 30 minutes for failing to adhere to court orders to pay agreed maintenance for their children.
Adopting a hard-line against fathers who don’t pay sufficient children’s maintenance at the family law court in Ennis, Judge Mary Larkin called into action the court guard on three occasions in the half hour to escort the men downstairs to the cells.
In relation to one man who owed €694.30 to his ex-partner, Judge Larkin instructed the court Garda: “Please bring him down to the cells.”
Judge Larkin told the man that he could be released if he arranged for the outstanding monies to be paid out.
The man had earlier in court paid out €1,350 to the arrears that had accumulated.
Judge Larkin told the three they had been warned of the consequences if they didn’t pay up.
Two men were released within an hour with one transferring the final portion of the €694.30 to his ex-partner via his smartphone in front of Judge Larkin.
However, a third man who owes €1,280 will spend the weekend in Limerick prison after failing to come up with the money.
The man, who was legally represented, was disputing that he owed €600 of the overall sum.
Judge Larkin ordered that the man be brought to prison and he is set to re-appear before court next Tuesday.
Judge Larkin said if and when the man does come up with the money he can be released from prison.
In a fourth case, Judge Larkin told another father “stop the nonsense and get a job”.
Judge Larkin made her comment after the unemployed father told her that he spends his days ‘tidying up the house’.
His ex-partner told the court that the man in his 30s also helps out his father on the farm.
Judge Larkin asked: “Why are you farming? You have the leisure of working on your father’s farm because you love your father and you won’t get a job to pay for your children.”
Judge Larkin warned if the man doesn’t set up a direct debit for his maintenance payments, he will be going to jail the next time in court.
Judge Larkin told the man that by the next court date on November 18, he must get a job.
Judge Larkin said: “He is going to go to jail the next day if he doesn’t sort himself out.”
In relation to another father not complying with a court order to pay €50 per week per child in maintenance, Judge Larkin questioned why the man spent €162 on a night at the Kilmurry Lodge Hotel in Limerick and €217 for a night out with his parents at an Ennis restaurant over the Summer.
The man said he made the spend “after everything that has happened over the past two years”.
In response, Judge Larkin said: “What do you mean ‘the last two years’? You have obligations to your children."
“What are you talking about going for meals or going to the Kilmurry Lodge Hotel because you had a hard time over the last two years?"
She said: “We have to pay our bills and what is due on foot of the court order."
She added: “We can’t decide ‘oh, I’ve had a hard time now. I will go off to the Kilmurry Lodge Hotel and spend some money instead of paying what I am supposed to pay on foot of the court order'.”
Judge Larkin pointed out that while he was on the PUP payment, the man’s maintenance obligations were reduced to €30 per child and that has now increased to €50 per child now that he is back to work.
She said: “What part of that agreement do you not get and that it applied only when it suited you?”
Judge Larkin also queried why the father was paying out an average of €23 per week - or €1,196 over a 12 month period - to a Christmas voucher scheme for his children.
She said: “You are saving your money to save for Christmas presents rather than comply with the court order.”