Elderly Irish couple convicted over failure to wear face masks in Aldi supermarket

A married elderly couple have been convicted in an Irish court over their refusal to wear face masks during a shopping trip to an Aldi supermarket.

Ryan Austin (81) and his wife Nicky Austin (76), of Woodpark, Mountshannon, Co Clare, visited the Killaloe Aldi branch on January 26th while the country was in lockdown due to Covid-19.

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

While shopping, they were approached by two local Gardaí, including Detective Garda John Jenks. In evidence, Detective Jenks told Killaloe District Court that he advised the couple of the requirement to wear masks, to which Mrs Austin replied, “I don’t have to wear a mask. It is not the law. Show me the law on it.”

Detective Jenks then showed Mrs Austin the laws on his phone screen, who said she was showing no symptoms of Covid-19. To this, Jenks responded that she may be asymptomatic. Her husband, Ryan Austin, reportedly presented the Gardaí with a self-declaration form claiming he was exempt from mask-wearing, but the couple could provide no valid reason why they should be exempt from the rule.

Solicitor for the couple Mr Loughnane said the wearing of masks causes stress to both of them, adding that their GP as a matter of policy won’t provide letters concerning non-wearing of masks.

Mr and Mrs Austin received a summons to appear in court over their refusal to wear masks after their failure to pay on-the-spot fines. The elderly couple contested the prosecution and their solicitor, Mr Loughnane said: “They are very private people. The non-wearing of masks by this couple was a private matter and not any form of public protest.”

However, on Thursday they were convicted over the incident at Killaloe District Court. Judge Larkin also fined the couple €80 each over them breaching Covid-19 health regulations.

At their solicitor’s request, the judge set recognisance in the event of an appeal to the circuit court.

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