Woman who feeds the homeless is fined €150 in protest over census
A good Samaritan who refused to fill in her census form because she felt the homeless were not being counted properly has been fined.
Charity worker Ashling Lowe, of Trim, Co Meath, was given eight months to pay a fine of €150 after she was convicted for failing to provide the information on the Census of Population form in April 2016.
She appeared before Navan District Court after proceedings were brought against her by the director general of the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
Ms Lowe's is one of seven cases around the country brought before the courts.
So far, there have been three convictions and one donation to the poor box, according to the CSO.
Ms Lowe, who runs a food bank for the needy, said she refused to fill in the forms because she felt the rough sleepers in Dublin were not being counted correctly.
"I went to Dublin every Sunday night last year with food for the homeless and I told the census enumerator that when she dropped in the form," she said.
"I told her I'd happily bring the form with me and fill it in if I came across an enumerator counting the homeless.
"I was all around Dublin that night and every rough sleeper that I talked to said they hadn't seen anyone in relation to the census.
"I felt the enumerators were not doing their job properly and, as a protest of moral conscience, I decided not to comply with my legal requirement in order to highlight this issue.
"I believe there are a lot more homeless on the streets than were counted in that census.
"I'm told that if an enumerator for the homeless can't engage with them, they just record their gender.
"This is wrong. We're all human beings, and rough sleepers deserve to be counted and have details taken just the same as everyone else."
Ms Lowe said she is considering appealing her conviction but not the fine, which she hopes will be given to a homeless charity of the judge's choice.
She will continue helping the homeless in Dublin and Meath, where she has opened a food bank to take in donations of non-perishable items.
The CSO said Census 2016 recorded 6,906 homeless people, 73pc of whom were in the Dublin region.
It added that 123 rough sleepers were counted, 102 of them in Dublin.
This count was carried out by the Dublin Regional Housing Executive.