The first bar owner in Ireland to be sentenced to a jail term for breaking the smoking ban has spoken of his surprise at the verdict.
Monaghan publican Paul Finnegan didn’t even know he was facing jail time for breaching the ban until he read the story and saw his name in the papers on Thursday morning.
The owner of Shenanigans Bar on Castleblayney’s Main Street in County Monaghan, Finnegan faces a three month jail sentence after a number of young people, some of them in school uniform, were observed smoking on his premises last year.
Finnegan didn’t attend the hearing at Carrickmacross District Court on Wednesday when judge Sean McBride described him as ‘totally lawless’ and fined him €2,000 as well as imposing the jail sentence.
After consulting his lawyer, the separated father-of-two is to appeal the sentence and is adamant that he can’t go to jail.
“I can’t do that. My mother and father are sick and I can’t leave them. I can’t close my business down either,” Finnegan told the Irish Independent.
A former prize winner on an Irish television lottery game, Finnegan believes he is the victim of a local vendetta against his bar.
“At dinnertime, all the kids congregate in the alley beside me here and they’re smoking in the alley around the door of the pub and eating chips and doing what kids do when they’re 17 or 18,” added Finnegan.
“But even if the pub is closed, they’d be there. It’s an awful way to be; all my taxes are paid, I have my tax-clearance cert here in the pub for anyone to see, the rent’s paid, as are the water rates - everything’s paid.
“This pub is a lovely wee tidy place. There’s three old women here now drinking tea, there’s two old boys drinking Guinness, and there’s one fella 65 years of age with one leg - so, if that’s lawless, I don’t know what is.”
The court heard that Finnegan has two previous convictions for breaking the smoking ban.
An environmental officer for the local health board witnessed people smoking on the premises when he visited Shenanigans last December, some of whom were wearing school uniforms.