Applause for judge's criticism of youth labour laws


A DISTRICT Court judge was given a round of applause yesterday when he criticised the law which prevents young people working after 10pm.

At Edenderry District Court Judge John Neilan said: “Stand on street corners, scratch your backside, take drugs but whatever you do, don’t go working.

“Young people in gainful employment even an hour over time should not be penalised. It’s far, far better to have them working than floating around, standing on street corners, insulting everyone who passes by.”

At the end of a stinging critique of employment regulation there was a spontaneous round of applause from the packed courtroom, which the judge swiftly cut short.

At Edenderry District Court he dismissed 19 summonses against a man accused of employing young people to work until 11pm when under section 6 of the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act they must finish by 10pm.

The court heard that Benedict Sweeney of Sweeney’s Filling Station in Edenderry was unaware of the legislation and had handed over his employment records, confident that he was fully compliant.

The teenagers are all still employed by Mr Sweeney and in many instances are paid above the statutory rate.

“What does this say to young people?” asked the judge, adding that parents nowadays do not have the resources to buy everything their children need.

“I’m sick and tired of young people’s legislation – you’d think we’re driving them as slaves.”

He said it made no sense “to deprive them of a few extra euro if they want to work”.

He added that he was frustrated with the regulations and that the “bureaucracy and nonsense” was beyond his comprehension.

The judge said that as a child he had worked on the family farm late into the night when hay had to be saved.

“We didn’t have . . . health and safety regulations – you did it. Now, staff in Dunnes Stores and Tesco have to be told how to stack cornflakes. Next thing housewives and husbands will be taking courses in how to put away the boxes of cornflakes so they don’t fall on their heads.”

Judge Neilan, who said he was upset by the situation, commended Mr Sweeney and thanked him for employing young people.

He went on to criticise the bureaucracy that saw Cappoquin “bereaved” by the loss of the chicken industry.

He said not “a sinner or soul” in any Government department would take action despite the fact that Irish producers work to stringent standards while imported “lumps of meat” bought for a cent in Thailand and other countries with no regulation carry the “Guaranteed Irish” symbol.

“I’d take the regulations and burn the lot and then I’d burn the chicken house if that’s the way the Government and western Europe want to work.”