Actor says he stole groceries to avoid telling his children there was no food

 

AN ACTOR who pleaded guilty in court to stealing groceries said he did it because telling his three children that there was no bread and milk “was a step too far”.

Joe Purcell (57) of Donomore Park in Tallaght, Dublin, said a mix-up with children’s allowances meant the payment was stopped for a short time last August.

“That’s why we were left with no money and nothing in the fridge,” Purcell told The Irish Times yesterday.

“For myself I can deal with it, but for the three kids it was different. I couldn’t let them ask for a glass of milk in the morning and not get any,” he said.

The actor, his wife and three children, aged nine, 12 and 16, is living on social welfare payments and the small earnings from on and off acting work .

He did decorating work on his return from the UK five years ago but this dried up. Acting work included a part in Pygmalion at the Abbey Theatre last year.

Last Thursday he pleaded guilty at Tallaght District Court to stealing €58 worth of groceries from two shops in Firhouse last August 6th. Judge Anthony Halpin ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service.

Judge Halpin told the court that middle-class people unable to buy food for their children was a new type of poor that had emerged from the recession.

However the judge said there were “green shoots”.” He described the recent appearance of Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the front page of Time magazine as a “great launch for this country to show that we are pulling ourselves up by our boot straps”.

Yesterday Purcell said he had originally decided to ask for some credit in local shops on August 6th but was refused. “I had no money. I had to get bread and milk, simple things,” he said. Purcell said the manager caught him getting into his car outside the second shop.

“I said I don’t do this all the time, I’m not a thief, but the manager said, ‘You are a thief,’” Purcell explained. He felt there was “a difference between stealing a million dollars or mugging an old lady and stealing a loaf of bread”.

He was ashamed at first but is no longer ashamed. “What man wouldn’t, if your children are hungry? It’s basic instinct,” he said. His family manages to live on the social welfare payments but was always to the pin of its collar, he said. He and his wife have given up smoking and no longer have a drink once a week.

He hopes he can get more acting work to help.

“This Monday morning we had €10 left until Thursday and we will stretch that, no matter what happens,” he said.