Exile for dinner runner with smoking overdraft

A knight of the road who left an Athlone restaurant without paying avoided further jail this week (October 17 ) after promising to stay out of Westmeath and Longford for a year.

Matthew Conroy (52 ), who gave an address at Kilcommon, Thurles, Co Tipperary, but who spoke of travelling to Mallow, Ballina, and Mullingar after getting temporary release from prison on Monday, defended himself and attempted to plead not guilty to the charge.

Prior to his case being called, Conroy’s shouting and complaining from the dock asking for either a female solicitor, or one who smoked, found Judge Seamus Hughes threatening him with seven days in jail for contempt in order to stop his interruptions.

Judge Hughes also acknowledged Conroy as someone he had jailed last Friday in Longford for eight weeks.

Inspector Nicholas Farrell told how Conroy left Jia Jia in the McCormack Centre on the Dublin Road on Tuesday, after dinner, beer, and wine valued at €48; however, Conroy - who has previous convictions for similar offence - told the court it was a mix up over his credit card.

“I’m innocent. I’m trying to explain what happened,” said Conroy.

“When I left the Midland Prison on Monday there was no money. I’m supposed to get gratitude money,” he explained.

A prison escort clarified this as a “gratuity” worth €2.50 per day of sentence to a released prisoner.

Conroy travelled to Mullingar on his release from prison on Monday, and slept on the streets there, before then travelling to Athlone on Tuesday.

He told the court he believed his gratuity would have been paid to his account by noon on Tuesday but that this didn’t happen, and he would now have to go to Thurles to see if any of this was in his account.

The judge asked why this would be, and Conroy told him: “I probably left [prison] with an overdraft because I smoked so much”, to the amusement of the court.

“Will you give me an undertaking not to enter Westmeath or Longford in the next 12 months? Leave today for Thurles and come back to me in a year’s time,” said the judge.

Conroy said he would but then continued to argue his case. Judge Hughes was having none of it.

“C’mon! Out!” he ordered, sending Conroy meekly on his way.

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