Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Matt McCarthy TD has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to clarify why he has brought a High Court challenge seeking to set aside a suspended sentence imposed on a senior department official for animal neglect and welfare issues.
The Minister is appealing a four-month suspended sentence imposed by the court and argues that the maximum penalty available was a fine.
The court had also imposed fines amounting to €2,000.
Speaking on the issue, Carthy said: “It appears bizarre that any employer would take legal action on behalf of a staff member convicted of grievous activities.
"More so given in this instance that it involves a Minister acting on behalf of the Irish people.
“Reports that the Minister for Agriculture has taken a legal appeal on a case that resulted in a conviction of a senior official for breeches of animal welfare rules on his own land have caused great concern and unease among the public,” he continued.
“I am conscious that this is subject to legal proceedings. However, the public concern is such that it is imperative that Minister McConalogue provide clarity as to why he brought this action and on what basis he did so,” McCarthy concluded.
Animal cruelty offences
Meanwhile, Social Democrats agriculture spokesperson Holly Cairns has also called on Minister McConalogue to explain his action.
“[Department of Agriculture official Bernard (Brian)] Kilgarriff ultimately pleaded guilty to four of 10 charges relating to neglect, or being reckless, regarding the health or welfare of an animal, and two charges of failing to have his animals tested for TB and bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) since 2016.
"Judge Kilrane imposed concurrent four-month suspended sentences in respect of the animal welfare breaches and fined him €2,000 in respect of the testing offences,” said Cairns.
“However, it now transpires that the Minister is taking judicial review proceedings to set aside the concurrent four-month suspended sentences imposed on Mr Kilgarrif.
"Having belatedly taken the initial prosecution against his own employee, the Minister is now apparently unhappy with the severity of the sentence.
“Ordinarily, if there is unhappiness with a sentence handed down by the court, it is the defendant who either takes an appeal or judicial review proceedings.
"Extraordinarily, in this case, it is the Minister - who prosecuted Mr Kilgarrif - who is judicially reviewing the sentence.
“If Mr Kilgarrif feels he was treated unfairly by the court, then it is open for him to appeal the sentence to the circuit court.
"The Minister must explain why he is taking the unprecedented step of judicially reviewing a case that he actually won,” said the west Cork TD.
“He must also explain why, according to media reports, he is attempting to quash both the sentence Mr Kilgarrif received and the conviction – and not have the matter remitted back to the district court.
"This means that Mr Kilgarrif, who pleaded guilty to these offences, will have those convictions permanently expunged from his record,” added Cairns.
“Animal cruelty is a serious offence which is prosecuted all too infrequently. The Minister must immediately explain why he is seeking to set aside convictions for egregious offences imposed on one of his own officials."