Longford bridal party fined over ‘illegal’ wedding celebrations

Judge says group’s actions ‘put planned reopening of society in region at risk’

  Newlyweds Willie Stokes and Shelby Kelly   leaving Longford Court, where they appeared relating to their wedding last week. Photograph:  Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Newlyweds Willie Stokes and Shelby Kelly leaving Longford Court, where they appeared relating to their wedding last week. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

The groom, catering firm and parents of a bridal party have issued a “full and frank” apology for their part in the staging of an “illegal” wedding reception in Longford last week.

William Stokes, and his father Patrick Stokes, both of Willow Park, Strokestown Road, Longford, along with father-in-law Stephen Kelly, of Railway Meadow, Farneyhoogan, Longford, and Peter Vocella, Luigis, Main Street, Longford, were all ordered to pay €3,000 in compensation following a special Circuit Court sitting on Monday.

All four, together with the bride, Shelby Stokes, and two other members of the Traveller wedding party and marquee owner, Alan Horohoe of Ventura Marquee Hire Ltd, Ballyleague, Lanesboro, Co Roscommon, had been ordered to come before Judge Keenan Johnson after an initial hearing last Thursday.

That came less than 24 hours after more than 100 revellers attended a wedding reception despite an emergency court injunction being granted to Longford County Council to prevent it.

Niall Flynn, for the local authority, said neither the council nor gardaí were able to call on any witnesses to confirm the order had been served on the bride or two other members of the bridal party at the time the wedding was taking place.

Wholehearted apology

It was also revealed Mr Horohoe only became aware of the order on May 6th at which stage the 185sq m (2,000sq ft) tent had already been taken down.

However, Mr Flynn said the court could proceed with alleged criminal contempt proceedings against the groom, Mr Stokes, as well as his father and Mr Kelly and Mr Vocella.

Paul Gunning, acting for Mr Stokes snr and jnr as well as Mr Kelly, said his clients took the matter “very, very seriously”.

He said each of the accused were willing to offer a contribution to charity as well as tender a wholehearted apology to the court. All four apologised in court.

The judge said the actions displayed by those involved in the hosting of the celebrations was premeditated and had run the risk of turning Longford into a Covid-19 blackspot.

“By their actions they have put the planned reopening of society in the Longford region at risk.”

He also said the repercussions of holding such an event had done little to further the plight of the wider Travelling community.

“The actions of the marquee supplier and the caterer are particularly offensive as they enabled this flagrant breach of the public health guidelines to take place,” he said.

Each of the parties were ordered to return to Longford Circuit Criminal Court on June 1st with €3,000 in compensation, which is expected to be divided between three local charities.