A company, whose new premises were officially opened by the Taoiseach less than a year ago has been accused by a judge of operating illegally.
Judge John Neilan said at Mullingar District Court that Wines Direct couldn’t simply “set up shop” at their new premises “without any authorisation from anybody”.
The company had been operation on Ashe Road, Mullingar until their building burnt down in late 2007. They were recently instructed by the Revenue Commissioners that they required District Court certification to renew their alcohol licence for their new premises. They had a licence for an interim address.
The Taoiseach attended the launch of the new premises on November 21 2008 and in his speech congratulated owner Paddy Keogh on how he had turned “disaster into triumph” and describing him as “an outstanding example of the can-do, entrepreneurial spirit that is such a strength in our small businesses”.
In opening the €3.3m new business headquarters for the wholesale and retail company, the Taoiseach in his speech congratulated Mr Keogh, recalling how he had been “true to his word” following comments that he made on Morning Ireland, while the fire was still burning, that the blaze would not put the company out of business.
However, when they recently applied for a renewal of the licence for the new premises at Lough Sheever , Mullingar, Judge Neilan suggested the company contact the local superintendent to see if they should “close down the operation” until the conclusion of their business with the court.
“They just can’t set up stall wherever they deem appropriate, even in the difficult situation where their premises burnt down.”
He said he could not give authority to the company to continue to trade, whose status he said was “illegal, to all intents and purposes”.
Linda Appleby, general manager of the company, told the court they had been in the wholesale business for 18 years but in retail for the last seven years.
She said planning legislation had been complied with and it was her understanding they had been acting within the law.
However, the judge questioned her right to represent the company because no company resolution was presented to the court indicating that the directors had agreed she could.
The directors, Paddy and Linda Keogh were unable to attend court because they were attending a funeral, solicitor Lena Savage explained.
The judge also pointed out that there was a difference in the spelling of the name of the company on the articles of association which named Wines Direct and the application naming Wine Direct.
Two men are due to appear before Mullingar Circuit Court in the coming weeks charged with criminally causing €1m damage to the company’s original premises.