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Elderly Clare couple fined for refusing to wear masks in Aldi

A MARRIED couple with a combined 157 years of “living peacefully and not troubling anyone” have been convicted over their refusal to wear face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic, writes Gordon Deegan.

At Killaloe District Court, Judge Mary Larkin convicted Ryan Austin (81) and Nicky Austin (76) both of Woodpark, Mountshannon, Co Clare, over their refusal to wear face masks at the Aldi store in Killaloe during a Covid-19 lockdown on January 26.

Solicitor for the two, Billy Loughnane said that his two clients have “over 150 years of living peacefully and never causing trouble in all that time”.

The two contested the prosecution and Mr Loughnane said: “They are a very private people. The non wearing of masks by this couple was a private matter and not any form of public protest.”

Mr Loughnane said that the wearing of masks causes stress to both of them.

He said that their GP, as a matter of policy, won’t provide letters concerning non wearing of masks.

The couple received a summons to appear in court over the non-wearing of masks after their failure to pay on the spot fines.

Judge Larkin imposed fines of €80 each on the couple arising from them breaching Covid-19 health regulations by not wearing face coverings while shopping at the Aldi store in Killaloe on January 26 last.

At around 11.40am on the day in the store, the two were approached by two local Garda detectives over their non-wearing of masks.

In evidence, Detective Garda John Jenks said that after he advised the Austins that they should be wearing face masks, Nicky Austin replied: “I don’t have to wear a mask. It is not the law. Show me the law on it.”

Detective Jenks said that he googled the laws on his phone and showed them to Mrs Austin.

He said he advised the Austins to wear masks to protect themselves and others.

The detective told the court that the two were at a vulnerable age in the context of Covid-19.

Mrs Austin told Detective Jenks that she had no Covid symptoms and in reply the detective told her she may be asymptomatic.

Detective Jenks said that Ryan Austin produced a self declaration form that he didn’t have to wear a mask but neither of the two could provide any medical reasons as to why they couldn’t wear a mask.

He stated stated that other shoppers came up to himself and colleague Detective Sergeant Ronan O’Hara during their conversation with the Austins to thank them for enforcing the Covid-19 regulations.

Mr Loughane asked Judge Larkin to set recognisance in the event of an appeal to the circuit court and Judge Larkin set recognisance.

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