A Co Mayo woman has told a judge she set up an unregistered charity shop to assist local causes, including families suddenly bereaved who needed money for funeral expenses.
Maureen Gaughan, owner of what was known as the Second Chance Boutique on American Street, Belmullet, told Judge Alan Mitchell at Belmullet District Court she had not gained personally from the charity venture, "not a penny".
She pleaded guilty to breaching the Charities Act 2009.
The boutique was closed by the Charities Regulator under a “cease and desist order” following a complaint by a member of the public.
Garda Daniel Malone said when he investigated on December 3rd, 2015, following a complaint from a member of the public, he found two charity shop signs on the footpath pointing towards the Second Chance Boutique.
He said Ms Gaughan admitted the shop was not operating as a registered charity. He said 76 bags of second-hand clothing and boxes of toys and books were seized, as well as €362 in cash.
Ms Gaughan told the court she had been involved with St Vincent de Paul for years and when the charity’s shop in Belmullet closed, she tried to fill the void.
Road traffic victims
“I collected money for anyone looking for help, including the families of road traffic victims,” she said.
Judge Mitchell said while it had not been proven Ms Gaughan gained personally from the venture, he could not disregard the fact there had been a breach of the Charities Act.
Remanding the case to November, the judge said he would dismiss it under the Probation Act if €500 was paid to the RNLI.
Judge Mitchell ordered forfeiture of the cash and property seized by gardaí.
The Charities Regulator said it welcomed the prosecution.
“Charity shops are an important source of funding for a number of Irish charities and the work they do, and they depend on the public’s trust and generosity,” chief executive John Farrelly said.
“ It is therefore essential that this trust is not undermined by people who are operating shops in breach of the Charities Act. The public must have confidence that goods donated and purchased in charity shops go towards funding charitable work.”