A Westmeath builder has been fined €500 for failing to pay mandatory pension contributions for three of his staff over three years.
At Mullingar District Court Judge David Anderson said that he would have jailed Joseph Kennedy, 20 Chestnut Drive, Mullingar if the law allowed it.
He said the father of one, who has been out of work himself since 2007, had been stalling since November 2006 “when the game was up”.
He failed to pay €5,458.89 in respect of three workers between 2004 and 2006. The figure was reached after a Labour Court hearing in 2007.
An inspector for the Construction Industry Monitoring Authority said Kennedy had made no effort to pay the money, despite numerous payment plans having been put in place.
Mr Louis Kiernan said his client’s business turned bad in 2007 and he had not been able to pay his debts. His house is in arrears and the bank proposes to sell it.
It had earlier been proposed that Kennedy would sell the house himself and would use some of the proceeds to make up the payments to the pension fund. However this had not been possible.
His client’s situation was “a microcosm of the demise of the Celtic Tiger”, he said, pointing out that Kennedy had employed a number of people when he could afford to.
Now his life has “fallen apart”, and he has since addressed drug and alcohol problems.
“It’s pointless to employ someone if you don’t pay them,” said Judge Anderson who said it was strange that there is no custodial sentence available to the court in such a case.
“You can go to jail for smoking cigarettes in pubs,” he remarked.
He said it would be wrong of him to impose the maximum fine of €3,000 in view of Kennedy’s financial circumstances and instead gave him a year to pay a fine of €500.