Grandmother given suspended sentence for refusing to wear mask in shop

Margaret Buttimer, who was fined €350 for abusing store manager, claims she only answers to God

A Co Cork grandmother has received a suspended sentence over her refusal to wear face masks in a shop during the Covid-19 pandemic and a fine for verbally abusing a shop manager.

Margaret Buttimer (66), of The Cottage, St Fintan's Road, Bandon, was jailed for the weekend after she refused to wear a mask during a hearing at Bandon District Court last Friday.

She had appeared before the court for refusing to wear a mask at Dunnes outlet in Clonakilty on February 12th last. She was found guilty of breaching Covid-19 regulations.

Judge Colm Roberts was told that Buttimer abused the store manager when he asked her if there was a medical reason for her not wearing a face covering. Gardaí attended the scene and Buttimer again refused to wear a mask or explain why she would not do so, saying she only answered to God.

Buttimer arrived in court on Monday without wearing a mask and Judge Roberts asked her solicitor, Plunkett Taafe, to speak to her about the situation.

“She has said several times she is only answerable to God and so she seems to think she is not answerable to the law or this court or the public health needs of this country,” the judge said.

Enjoying attention

The judge said Buttimer was entitled to her relationship with God, but not to the detriment of society. He said there was a certain element of enjoying the attention she was getting. He said Buttimer was “unrepentant and is likely to reoffend” which undermined the options the court had in handling the situation.

Mr Taafe consulted with Buttimer, who again refused to wear a mask and declined to give any assurances about doing so in the future.He said Buttimer was "entrenched" in her belief that doing so was a "gross intrusion of her freedom".

Judge Roberts said Buttimer was behaving in a “destructive” manner which was at odds with her pleasant demeanour in court.

Taking her lack of previous convictions and her age in to account, Judge Roberts imposed a three week prison sentence, which he suspended for a period of two years, and fined Buttimer €350 for verbally abusing the store manager, who she has apologised to.

Buttimer, who left the court to a round of applause from supporters, will appear in court again over similar charges on June 14th.