Former chairperson of parents’ council stole over €3,000 from its funds, court told

Theft included money from Christmas card scheme

 

The former chairperson of the parents’ council at a Co Laois school has pleaded guilty to stealing over €3,000 from its funds, including money from a Christmas card scheme.

Bernadette Moran (43) admitted two charges of theft from the parents’ council of Scoil Mhuire in Abbeyleix on dates between September 2015 and September 2016 in what was described by a judge as a “mean, nasty and community-corrosive” offence.

Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court heard on Wednesday that Moran – a separated mother of two, who comes originally from Dublin, but with an address at Lower Boley, Abbeyleix, Co Laois – had previously been given a four-year suspended jail term in 2008 for misappropriating €13,000 from the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation.

Evidence was heard that Moran in her role as chairperson had said she would arrange Garda vetting of members of the parents’ council but never did as it would have highlighted her previous conviction.

In a victim impact statement, representatives of the parents’ council said Moran had sent emails to people in Abbeyleix attempting to implicate two of their members in the missing funds.

The parents, who claimed they had been living under a cloud of suspicion for several years, said Moran’s offences had far-reaching consequences for the parents’ council, the school and its students as well as the wider community.

They accused Moran of “denigrating the good character and reputation” of the group and had subjected them to “vicious lies and rumours”.

The court heard the parents’ council had been disbanded in 2017 as a result of what had happened.

Det Garda Mark Russell from Abbeyleix Garda station, said the offences only came to light in September 2016 after a mother of a student at Scoil Mhuire had tried to make a claim on an insurance policy arranged by the parents’ council after her child suffered an injury in the school.

The court heard the woman was informed by the insurance company that no policy was in place for Scoil Mhuire.

A formal complaint about Moran was subsequently made to gardaí in October 2016.

Geraldine Fitzpatrick, BL for Moran, said her client had brought €1,005 to court and was prepared to pay the remainder of what she owed as well as make a donation.

Judge Keenan Johnson said he was concerned that Moran had misled a probation officer by claiming all the money she had stolen had been repaid.

Adjourning sentencing until July 10th, Judge Johnson ordered Moran to make a full apology which is to be circulated to everyone who received her original emails before she returned to court.

He also ordered her to repay the outstanding sum owed of €2,153 and to make a donation of €5,000 to the parents’ council.