A Galway West senator who continued to drive her car for a number of months while there was no tax paid on the vehicle was fined a total of €1,850 at Galway District Court yesterday.
While not present in court, Fidelma Healy Eames (51 ) of Maree, Oranmore, entered a plea of guilty, through her solicitor, to four summonses which included three counts of driving without tax and one count of failing to display tax. A fifth summons for false declaration was withdrawn by the State.
Garda Garret Cafferkey gave evidence that on March 10, 2012, at 4.57pm he had been in Oranmore, on his way to work in his private car, when he observed the accused driving her Mercedes while holding a mobile phone and while there was a young female in the passenger seat. He issued a ticket to her when he got into work for using the phone, this was later paid. However when he checked the tax of the car on the Garda PULSE system it was discovered it had expired in January 2012.
The court then heard that on June 23 at 6.50pm at Seafield, Maree, Oranmore, Garda Cafferkey saw the same Mercedes being driven by Healy Eames. He did not stop the vehicle but he checked the PULSE system again to see if the car had been taxed and found that it still had not been paid since January.
The senator was eventually stopped on July 2 at 5.17pm at Moneenageisha Road by Garda Cafferkey who observed that the Mercedes was not taxed. When questioned about the tax, the senator said that she had been trying to sell the car and that it had been off the road for a number of months. The car was then seized and towed away. The next day, Garda Cafferkey contacted the Galway Motor Tax Office which informed him that the car had been back taxed to the month of May, however, no tax had been paid for the months of February, March, and April. Garda Cafferkey then explained that when he checked with the tax office on December 12 he was told that arrears for months February through to April had been paid on October 3 last.
Defence solicitor Colman Sherry stressed that there was no loss to the State and that his client was very “contrite and remorseful” and that once it was brought to her attention the arrears were paid.
Noting that the State withdrew the most serious charge of false declaration, Judge Mary Fahy said: “This lady was continuously driving a Mercedes car while employed by the State and in receipt of a good salary and was not paying tax. I can understand when someone is busy or selling a car, but this car was on the road continuously. It was not paid until October 3. For someone who is in full employment of the State, to have a car seized, it is unprecedented in this court.”
Judge Fahy then convicted Senator Healy Eames €250 for driving without tax and she was fined a further €1,600 for driving without tax on July 2 and June 23, as “she had ample opportunity” to pay her tax. The summons for failing to display tax was taken into account