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24/10/2021

Not a single reveller at Longford super spreader house party were wearing masks, court hears

Fines handed down as gardaí bust 70 strong gathering during height of Covid pandemic

Judge Seamus Hughes

Judge Seamus Hughes handed down a series of fines to a number of people who were found at a house party in Longford last February

Dozens of people are due to appear before the courts in the coming weeks, charged in connection with a large house party, which took place in Longford town during the height of Covid-19 restrictions in February of this year.

A number of those appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes at last week’s sitting of Longford District Court, charged with attending the party and failing to pay the fixed penalty notice, which was issued to them on the night.

Gardaí were called to the property at 5 Palace Crescent on February 12 at approximately 9.30pm following a large number of calls from concerned residents of the estate.

Upon arrival, they encountered a large number of vehicles outside the house. Gardaí were refused entry more than once before acquiring a warrant to search the premises under the Misuse of Drugs Act. 15 gardaí were involved in the search.

Approximately 70 people were found within the house and asked to leave, but refused to do so. Dozens of Fixed Penalty Notices were issued with many left unpaid.

Rebecca Briody with an address at 86 Ardnacassa Avenue, Ardnacassa, was first to appear before Judge Hughes at Tuesday’s District Court sitting.

Gda Denise Dockery told the court that, upon meeting Ms Briody inside the house and informing her of the breaches of Covid-19 regulations, Ms Briody said that she “didn’t care” and refused to leave the property.

Gda Dockery informed the court that the party was for a christening of a young child and took place during level 5 restrictions when members of separate households could not mix.

“At least 70 people were in the house. Everybody will be here today or in the coming weeks,” Gda Dockery explained.
“There’s generally a lot of Covid breaches coming up but they’re people who are outside their five kilometres,” said Judge Hughes, referring to a number of minor Covid breaches that had appeared before the court.

“And I dealt with them by way of a fine of €250. A party of 70 people is a super spreader.”

He proceeded to fine Ms Briody €500 for attending the party, giving her three months to pay.

Next to appear before Judge Hughes was Helena Ward, of 30 Palace Crescent, Ardnacassa, Longford.

“What have you to say for yourself?” asked Judge Hughes, “and why are you wearing a mask?”

“Because of Covid,” Ms Ward replied.

“So you’re wearing it to stop the spread of Covid,” said Judge Hughes, “did you wear it at the party to protect those 70 people?”

“There wasn’t 70 people at the party,” Ms Ward replied.

“I have video footage that shows there was,” said Gda Dockery.

Ms Ward told the court that she had already had Covid-19 and recovered from it by the time she attended the party but Judge Hughes was not interested in hearing excuses.

“This is a super spreader. 70 people in a house,” he said.

“The whole country was terrified and we all stuck to the rules. There was substantial coverage of this party. You can be rest assured that there were elderly people who expressed disgust and amazement that people were prepared to go out and jeopardise the health of everyone.”

He proceeded to fine Ms ward €500 with three months to pay.

Husband and wife, John and Ann Marie Joyce, of no fixed abode, explained that they were “lodging” at the house where the party took place.

“At the time, myself and herself was homeless, so I was between places. I was lodging in the man’s house where the party took place,” said John Joyce, adding that he slept there that night.

Gda Robert Charman explained that he met Mr Joyce at the entrance to the property where he was told “just give us our fines and leave us be”.

“No I wasn’t talking to that guard, I was talking to Jarlath, the sergeant,” Mr Joyce objected.

“He came in the door and said ‘howya John’ and I said ‘howya Jarlath’ and he said ‘where are you now?’ and I said ‘I’m between places’. I never opened my mouth. My family never opened their mouths.”

Gda Charman explained again that he met Mr Joyce at the door of the property when gardaí arrived.

“I spoke to him at the door of the property and that was the response. It was a joint response from them both,” he said, referring to both Mr and Ms Joyce.

“‘Just give me my fine and leave me be’. That’s actually an expression you’ve used to me in Athlone court,” said Judge Hughes.
Ann Marie Joyce explained that she doesn’t drink or smoke and was not a reveller at the party.

“I was in the house. I don’t know one guard from another. I was minding my kids and grandkids. I wasn’t there to attend the party,” she told Judge Hughes.

“We’re pleading guilty to being there, not disputing the fact we were there. But I did not say them words. The only guard I was talking to was Jarlath,” Mr Joyce insisted.

“I’ll factor in, by way of mitigation, what has been said to me and give him a €250 fine. I’ll strike out the charge for Ann Marie,” said Judge Hughes.

However, after an application was made for legal aid, he noted “that’s the value of my €250 fine gone”.
Aaron Briody of 86 Ardnacassa Avenue was also before the courts last Tuesday charged with attending the party and told gardaí “sure I only live round the corner”. Judge Hughes also handed him a €500 fine with three months to pay.

Julie Doyle of 30 Palace Crescent, Ardnacassa, Longford, also appeared before Judge Hughes and explained that it was her nephew being christened.

“You know why these parties were prohibited? Was there one person wearing a mask among the 70 of you?” asked Judge Hughes.

“No,” said Ms Doyle. She explained that she had gone to pick up her son from the party and only stayed about an hour.

“The court considers such parties a very serious issue,” said Judge Hughes, fining Ms Doyle €500 and giving her three months to pay.

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