The national papers are again today full of stories on Judge Mary Devins over her offensive remarks on Polish immigrants by referring to Ireland's welfare system as a Polish charity.
The story has also been reported in the international media and the 'twittersphere' see below,
has been buzzing with details of the gaffe.
The judge was forced to issue a second apology when the first was rejected out of hand by Ireland's Integration Centre. Upon release of the second more sincere apology the Integration Centre abandoned plans to have the matter made into an official complaint to the Gardaí which would have resulted in questioning of the judge and the possibility of being arrested on racist charges. See SligoToday.ie 2/8/12
This is not the first time that Judge Mary Devins has come to prominence over remarks she has made. The Derry woman has a long history of colourful comments in court.
One of the most standout remarks came early in her career as a judge when she ordered that the daughter of Fianna Fail stalwart Padraig Flynn undergo a psychiatric report.
She has also made previous remarks against Polish defendants. In 2010, she hit the headlines after questioning the use of interpreters for Polish men in court.
Judge Devins questioned why Polish interpreters were being paid to assist defendants with a good level of English adding: "Why, when the country is on its knees do we have to pay for a Polish interpreter?"
On hearing that one defendant had been in the country for seven years, Judge Devins replied: "So you have been in this country for seven years and you haven't learned at least one of our languages."
In February of this year during cases where she imposed jail sentences on two Polish welfare cheats, Judge Devins dismissed claims that they had got involved in the scam after being taken advantage of by a large ex-patriot community.
"You almost have me in tears here. You're painting a picture akin to that of 'Little House on the Prairie' when you're describing these Polish ex-pats," she commented.
Judge Devins was appointed to the bench in 1998 and was transferred from the Dublin Metropolitan District to Mayo the following year. She had previously practised as a solicitor in Sligo.
She is married to former Fianna Fáil Sligo/Nth Leitrim TD and Minister of State, Dr Jimmy Devins.'Damaging Stereotypes and Prejudices'
The Immigrant Council of Ireland also welcomed the second apology last night. “The ICI welcomes the apology by District Court judge Mary Devins following her recent comments,” it said.
“While the ICI acknowledges that individuals are entitled to have an opinion, we strongly believe that those in a position of influence should refrain from making statements that may perpetuate and/or exacerbate negative, damaging stereotypes and prejudices against any member of the Irish society.”
A large and varied caseload comes before Judge Devins at Mayo District Court.
Regulars at court sittings recall that she has been very severe with anyone whose mobile phone would ring in court and has reprimanded gardaí about any lack of formality in their attire or presentation of evidence in court.
Judge Devins is known for her often forthright comments during her cases, as the following examples show.July 2012
A Ballinrobe man who threw large amounts of rubbish, including soiled nappies, into the garden of his home was given two weeks to get it cleaned up or else face jail. The court heard that the couple were in receipt of €430 in social welfare, €68 rent allowance and children’s allowance and winter fuel allowance.
Judge Devins said she did not know how a newborn baby could be brought home to such a dwelling and said if the HSE called they might take the children away.
“You are doing nothing else all day,” she said.
“The Government is giving you money hand over fist. Why don’t you get up and do some work? I wouldn’t allow a child of mine next nor near to that. You are bringing a newborn child home to that filth and dirt.”
At a later sitting Judge Devins was told that none of the rubbish had been removed. She sentenced the man to three months in jail to run consecutively with a six- month sentence and a €300 fine.July 2012
Judge Devins criticised slow drivers at a careless driving hearing. She made the comments in a case where a man was charged with overtaking three cars on the N5 at Bohola.
Judge Devins said she travelled that road regularly and could not understand how some cars drive at only 40 miles per hour when it was “the best road in the county”. The case was dismissed.
Judge Devins criticised delays in prosecuting in district courts. “I see no need for these delays in small county towns and to me the system is just not working,” she said.May 2012
A man appeared before Castlebar District Court on two public order charges last May. He recounted what he drank at a Mike Denver concert on the night of the offence – 15 pints and 15 vodkas.
“You sound like you are preparing a dissertation on alcohol abuse and it sounds like you are mildly proud of it,” Judge Devins said.April 2012
A former soldier and debt collector was convicted of assaulting a man whose van he was sent to repossess.
The man missed three payments and the bank decided it was time to send someone to repossess it. ACC bank had financed the van on hire purchase.
However, the man who carried out the repossession had no right to be there. Judge Devins criticised the bank’s paperwork and said: “The repossession orders are, quite frankly, nonsense. They don’t make sense in English, not to mind law.”
A motorist caught using a mobile phone for a fourth time while driving was fined €500 and banned from driving for two years at Castlebar District Court. When told it was the accused’s fourth offence, Judge Devins said “The phone must be glued to his ear.”
A guest broke a door window to gain access to his €30 BB after a night drinking and dancing in Bundoran, Co Donegal.
Judge Devins said she believed there was “over-reaction” by the guest and the BB landlady. Judge Devins said it was not a case for a criminal prosecution and she accepted payment to the landlady of €300 for damage and recorded no conviction.
In 2009 Judge Devins vacated the bench twice amid unruly courtroom scenes which broke out as she dealt with cases involving activists who want the Corrib gas terminal located offshore.
One protester questioned the judge’s impartiality claiming she had demonstrated ill-will towards him and “shown favour to my opponents”. Judge Devins said her impartiality in Shell to Sea cases was obvious to any interested observer and described the accusations as “scurrilous”. “vicious”, “personal” and “unwarranted”.February 2009
At Castlebar District Court, Judge Devins banned a farmer from driving for one year, after she criticised his “arrogance” and “individualism” for failing to pull over for traffic on his return from Balla mart, when he was travelling at 15 miles per hour.
She found that he had failed to pull over even though there were six places along the road in which he could have done so.
Twitter users voiced their opinions on the comments and subsequent apologies made by Judge Mary Devins.
@BarryHennessey: “Bottom line: Judge Mary Devins cannot command confidence that all who come before her will receive equal treatment. She must go.”
@CormacLooney: “Apology take 2 from Judge Mary Devins for Polish social welfare slur – Maybe she got a simple ‘sorry’ right this time.”
@CiaranMMonagle: “Judge Mary Devins comments have made it onto Bloomberg. Shame on her. We really are a banana republic.”
@theCultOutlaw: “The Politically Correct police out in force again, Judge Mary Devins just calling it as she sees it here in Mayo.”
@pad_white: “Judge Mary Devins is dead right, not just foreigners our own crowd benefit too, we are a joke of a country.”
@hiredknave: “It’s nearly lunchtime: why is Mary Devins still a judge?”
@oceanclub: “Is there any other interpretation of Mary Devins remark than bigoted?”