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No conviction for restaurateur who employed staff without work permit

Royal Palace Celbridge
Royal Palace Celbridge

A RESTAURATEUR has been spared a criminal conviction for hiring a foreign national who did not have a valid work permit after coming to Ireland on a holiday visa 13 years previously.

Mother-of-three Fei Fei Xue, 35, trading as the Royal Palace Chinese restaurant at the Castle Village shopping centre Celbridge, Co. Kildare pleaded guilty to breaking employment laws on two dates.

Judge John Brennan heard at Dublin District Court that on Dec. 17, 2015 a Workplace Relations Commission inspector attended the premises and interviewed staff. 

He found that one of them was a Chinese national who did not have a permit. He had entered the state in 2003 through Cork Airport on a holiday visa.

Inspectors made an unannounced visit on March 3, 2016  and found the same employee still working there and he had not regularised his status to work at that time, Judge Brennan heard..

Prosecution solicitor Niamh Tuite said the defendant has no prior criminal convictions.

Xue's barrister told the court that she is originally from China but has been in the country since 2000 and has been running the restaurant for the past three years. 

The illegal worker in her restaurant was not exploited and was treated the same as legal employees, the court heard.

Her only excuse for hiring the illegal worker was because "she found it difficult to find an appropriate Irish candidate to do this specialist work".

The judge was told she has six members of staff and never had a brush with the law before. She had also brought €2,000 to court in the hope that the case would not result in a formal conviction.

Judge Brennan said these were serious matters to protect workers from exploitation. He noted that the guilty plea, that she had no prior criminal convictions and there was no exploitation involved in this case.

He ordered her to donate the €2,000 to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin and struck out the charges.