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Covid breach Grandmother sent to prison for weekend after refusing to wear face mask during court hearing

Judge Roberts said he was confused by her antics as she was a "pleasant woman.”

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Margaret Buttimer at Bandon District Court. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

Margaret Buttimer at Bandon District Court. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

Margaret Buttimer at Bandon District Court. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

A GRANDMOTHER who "moved from defiance to openly challenge" the State over her steadfast refusal to wear a mask in shops and in court over Covid-19 was remanded in prison for the weekend.

Margaret Buttimer (66) - who was previously described before Clonakilty District Court as "an enigma" - will be sentenced on Monday after being remanded in custody for three days for repeatedly refusing to wear a mask when she appeared before the court.

Ms Buttimer of The Cottage, St Fintan's Road, Bandon appeared before Judge Colm Roberts earlier this week for refusing to wear a mask at Dunnes Stores in the town on February 12.

She was found guilty of the offence of not wearing a mask in breach of the Covid-19 public health regulations.
Judge Roberts was told that Ms Buttimer verbally abused the store manager when he asked her if there was a medical reason why she was not wearing a face covering.

Ms Buttimer refused to answer the manager's queries before eventually telling him that she only answered to God, the court heard. Management at the store contacted Bandon Gardaí.

Ms Buttimer then became agitated and called manager Gary Emerson an "a****le."

Gardaí arrived at the scene and she again informed them that she was only answerable to God.

She refused to provide her details and again declined to wear a mask when she was brought to a garda station.

Ms Buttimer told the court she didn't believe in masks but that she was sorry for calling the manager a name and hoped he would find it in his heart to forgive her.

The case was then adjourned until Friday to allow Ms Buttimer an opportunity to consider her position and to reflect on her behaviour.

Judge Roberts said he was confused by her antics as she was a "pleasant woman.”

However, he said she did seem to have a need for attention.

He warned her that she simply cannot do as she pleases.

Ms Buttimer arrived at the sitting of Bandon District Court today again without wearing a mask.

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Judge Roberts said that the last thing he wanted to do was impose a custodial remand on Ms Buttimer for contempt.

"This is not funny. I don't think you are appreciating the seriousness of this," he warned.

"She has created a situation where I have no other option. She is undermining the rules of the court and the country. Her viewpoint makes no logical sense. Her partner wears a mask and he is concerned about her."

"If she wants to be released (from custody) she will have to put a mask on. I am concerned about her decision making.

"I would like her to reflect on things - that would be useful. Deliberate defiance of the law on a consistent basis will lead to only one outcome, which won't be positive for you."

Judge Roberts said that Ms Buttimer had turned up in the public area of the court "without a mask but worse still a smile on her face as if this is something to laugh about”.

He said that Ms Buttimer was an "enigma" and acknowledged that her family were concerned about her.

After Ms Buttimer showed no sign of putting a mask on, he found her to be in contempt of court and remanded her in custody for the weekend.

She will appear again before Bandon District Court again on Monday for sentencing.

Judge Roberts said that Ms Buttimer was moving from defiance to "openly challenging the courts and the country."

Defence solicitor Plunkett Taaffe said that he was very conscious of the age of his client.

Mr Taaffe emphasised that Ms Buttimer’s family were concerned about her.

He spoke briefly to his client at the end of her case.

However, she did not put on a mask and was remanded in custody for the weekend.

Ms Buttimer will also appear in court in relation to other similar charges on June 14.

Judge Roberts warned she was fully entitled to her relationship with God but not to the detriment of wider Irish society.

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