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'I have got incredible support', says actor forced to steal food

AN actor who stole groceries from two shops to feed his family when his money ran out has said he is overwhelmed by the support he has got since going public about his conviction.

Joseph Purcell (57), from Donomore in Tallaght, revealed in the Herald how a temporary problem with the family's child benefit payments forced him to steal groceries so his three children would not go hungry.

His story coincided with the publication of a survey that shows an increase in food poverty in Ireland.

"I was very nervous about coming out with what happened. I felt shame about it, but the support I have got is incredible," Joseph revealed.

"I'm still not proud of what I did, but I'm not ashamed either," he added.

"Many of my acting colleagues have been in touch, and people I meet out and about are shaking my hand and saying 'it needed to be said' and being very supportive.

"The warmth and generosity of people is incredible."

Joseph told how a woman from Kerry sent him a cheque for €100 after hearing him on Joe Duffy's Liveline.

"But the irony of it is that when I brought it to the bank in Tallaght they wouldn't cash it because I don't have an account," smiled Joseph.


"I had this piece of paper in my hand that said I had €100, and I badly needed it, but I couldn't spend it."

Joseph explained that he opened a credit union account with the cheque. "I'm done with banks," he said.

Joe Duffy's researchers said the response to Joseph's story has been huge. "We have had many people looking for Joseph's details," they confirmed.

Joseph was convicted in court last week of stealing groceries from two shops in Firhouse. He was ordered to complete 100 hours community service in lieu of three months in prison.

A letter had been sent to his old address asking to confirm details of his children and family circumstances, and when it was not returned to social welfare staff, the child benefit was stopped temporarily.

"We literally ran out of money, and then ran out of food, and I did not know what I was going to do," Joseph said.

"I went to the local shops to ask for credit, because I knew I would get money the next Thursday, but the shops refused, explaining that it was company policy. I knew my kids would be getting up, and they would be hungry. They are aged nine, 11 and 16. I just knew I couldn't go home with nothing.

"I was nervous and desperate. I felt I had nothing to lose, I was either going home with something or nothing."