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Woman fined over Galway trip for 'walk with boyfriend'

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Denise O’Keeffe went on bus

Denise O’Keeffe went on bus

Denise O’Keeffe went on bus

A woman breached the lockdown in April by boarding a bus to get to Salthill in Galway for a walk on the prom with her then boyfriend, a court heard.

Denise O'Keeffe (32) "just wanted a few hours away" from home when she boarded the bus in Limerick and breached Covid-19 travel restrictions, her solicitor said.

O'Keeffe of Ballynanty Road, Limerick, yesterday escaped a jail term and possible €1,500 fine at Ennis District Court but was fined €100.

She admitted breaching health regulations aimed at preventing, limiting, minimising or slowing down the spread of Covid 19 at Portdrine, south-east Co Clare, on April 15.

Checkpoint

Sgt Aiden Lonergan told the court O'Keeffe was found on a Bus Éireann service at a Garda checkpoint.

The checkpoint had been in place as part of the Garda Operation Fánacht aimed to halting the spread of Coronavirus across the country during lockdown.

Sgt Lonergan said the penalties on conviction are a prison term up to six months and a fine of €1,500.

O'Keeffe's co-accused, Martin Desmond (40), of Church Street, St John's Square, Limerick, is to plead not guilty and contest the charge, the court heard.

Solicitor for Mr Desmond, Tara Godfrey, told Judge Patrick Durcan that Mr Desmond was unable to attend the court as he has suspected Covid-19 and is currently awaiting his test results.

Judge Durcan adjourned Mr Desmond's case to November.

Imposing the €100 fine on O'Keeffe, Judge Durcan said his approach is to impose severe penalties concerning Covid-19 breaches.

However, Judge Durcan said O'Keeffe's breach in the circumstances outlined is at the lower end of the scale.

Judge Durcan said that at the time the country was in a very serious state and was very concerned.

The judge Durcan said what O'Keeffe had done was very imprudent in the extreme.

Panicked

Daragh Hassett, defending O'Keeffe, said her intention when getting on the Bus Éireann service was to walk the prom in Salthill with her then boyfriend and return to Limerick.

Mr Hassett told the court O'Keeffe had panicked when she told gardaí she was on her way to see a sick relative in Galway.

He said O'Keeffe regrets saying that and regrets boarding the bus.

Mr Hassett told the court O'Keeffe is a full-time carer for her mother who is a wheelchair user.

He also said O'Keeffe had not left the house since Christmas apart from visits to her father, who lives nearby.