Judge apologises for her ‘off the cuff comments’

Judge Mary Devins has apologised for the “off the cuff comments” which she made during a court case which was before a district court sitting in Castlebar last Friday. Judge Devins had suggested that social welfare is a charity for Polish people.

The case, which was previously heard before another judge, was adjourned to last week’s court, in order for a Polish charity to have been chosen for the defendant to pay €1,000 to in lieu of a conviction. The judge said: “A Polish charity? There is. It’s called the social welfare.”

Judge Devins clarified this comment in a statement which was issued by the courts service on Wednesday. “My recent comment in court was made in the context of—and alluding to— another recent, violent, alcohol fuelled incident: involving several defendants of Polish origin who were all recipients of social welfare payments. The comment was intended to be specific to that incident and occurrence and was never intended to offend any community, or members of any community. If insult was taken from my comment I apologise for same.”

This apology however was condemned by local organisation Mayo Intercultural Action who said that “the apology in itself does not retract the statement made nor apologise for the sentiment it conveyed.”

The clarification from Judge Devins also sparked outrage from The Integration Centre—a non-profit organisation which is committed to the integration and inclusion of people from immigrant backgrounds in Ireland.

The centre said that the judge’s apology “seeks to blame those offended by her remark for the insult they took. She needed to give an unequivocal apology to Polish people.”

In a statement issued on Thursday morning The Integration Centre said it would make a formal complaint to An Garda Siochána about Judge Devins under the Garda Racist Reporting Mechanism. CEO of The Integration Centre Killian Forde said: “In addition to our formal complaint utilising the Racist Reporting Mechanism we would hope that the gardaí could also investigate whether the judge’s remarks are in breach of Section 2 of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989.”

On Thursday afternoon a second statement was issued from the courts service on behalf of Judge Devins. “I unreservedly and without qualification apologise for my off the cuff comments at a recent court case,” she said in the statement. “I understand and accept the hurt these comments caused to members of the Polish community. This was never my intention and I express my sorrow for same. My previous clarification was an attempt to provide a context and was not intended in any way to dilute my apology for such unwarranted comments.”

 

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