25 must return after judge spends time lecturing children

After turning up almost half an hour late for court, a judge then proceeded to spend the next 23 minutes issuing a rambling diatribe of advice to a small group of primary school children visiting the courtroom, before having to adjourn 25 cases for a fortnight at the end of business.

Judge John Neilan took it upon himself to proffer his wisdom on such subjects as the lost art of conversation, TV, drugs, drink, the EU and how to apply to be a barrister to a group of half a dozen 11-year olds from Ballinahown National School.

The judge, who regularly criticises the Department of Justice and Court Services from the bench at Athlone District Court on account of the size of his workload, did not offer any sympathy to the two dozen or so people who had to spend all day in court this week (June 10 ) only to be told to come back another day.

The judge initially welcomed the six children and their teacher to the courtroom but was somewhat anxious about their proximity to the errant classes.

“I would like if there was a public gallery so you wouldn't have to rub shoulders with common criminals,” he said.

“I suggest if there is a row in court your teacher will take you out with the help of the gardai.”

He then proceeded to expound about the dangers that these 11- year olds will face in the “marketplace of life”.

“That liquid we Irish are so good at – the demon drink - is used by so many young people because they've lost the art of conversation,” he offered, before blaming the arrival of television in the 1960s for this.

“The reality of life was most Irish people would have rambled into other houses and had a chat or a song. Now it was 'shhh Hawaii Five-Oh is on. The art of conversation was killed by TV.”

Judge Neilan then proceeded to get quite graphic about drug use and its ancillary dangers.

“I don't know how many people have been executed in the country, had a gun put to their head and had their brains blown across the street. I think it's about 40 now in the last few years.” he said.

“What sort of society do you want to join in the days and weeks and years ahead?” he asked the somewhat confused children.

“You are the people of the future whereas I'm coming to the end of my working life and I look to the future with some degree of sadness. I see the amount of people who can only go out full to the gills with drink.

“You the pupils of Ballinahown are the future. You are the judges and doctors and consultants of the future. There's nothing wrong with taking the occasional drink but don't touch drugs. If you cannot say no you will be on the slippery slope.

“You are entitled to be whatever you want to be, with just a little bit of extra homework.

We used to have a saying about the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. That last one has gone its way – probably because of the EEC which I'm not a great fan of, but we’d better not start that now.”

Later in the day when their teacher was escorting the youngsters from the courthouse, the judge took it upon himself to spend another five minutes telling the 11 year olds how to become a solicitor or barrister.

By the end of business, there were 25 cases outstanding on the summonses list, which were, en masse, adjourned to June 24.

Normally, Judge Neilan will not allow access to the courtroom to anyone under 18.

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