It is when one starts to examine Judge Devin's far more relevant public court record, that her 2002 hotel incident becomes valid. That is because it's very clear to everyone that over the nearly fifteen year period since she was appointed to the bench in 1997 her record has brimmed with thousands of irritable exchanges, breathtaking mood swings and frankly bizarre rulings - many of which it is roundly agreed are profoundly unjust. It is the opinion of us locals that she has repeatedly come to work while still actually under the influence of alcohol.
She has questioned whether she can trust any Gardaí in Mayo. Refused to adjourn a man's case when he was in hospital with injuries sustained in her very courtroom and a letter from the hospital was presented to her saying he could not leave their care. The judiciary itself has repeatedly had to censure her after finding that she has exceeded her jurisdiction.
"Why, when the country is on its knees do we have to pay for a Polish interpreter?" she blurted one day. Everyone in the courtroom fell silent including the Polish defendants - and several people noticed that Judge Devins was visibly shaking. "You have been in this country for seven years" she seemed on the verge of tears, "and you haven’t learned at least one of our languages?!"
As my astute blogger friend Gombeen points out, she was clearly not referring to Polish or Chinese which classify as our most widely spoken second and third languages when she referred to the plurality of dialects spoken in present-day Ireland. Nor did she seem particularly concerned with the fact that a courtroom can be a very intimidating place for a non-native English speaker. Or the fact there is a well established precedent for interpretation. On the contrary, the local wisdom was: "she's pissed again..."
Another day, when dealing with a form of urban acrobatics in which participants known as 'freerunners' who use cities and rural landscapes to perform movements through their structures, Judge Devins said the new Defence and Dwelling Bill should make people think twice about freerunning through people’s property.
"The new bill is about household defence and people protecting their property" she literally seemed to slur her words, "if you do this [freerunning] through the property of a person who has a legally held shotgun, just think about it! If the bill goes through, people are entitled to take action they see necessary in their home or the curtilage of the home..."
There was a stunned silence - and almost unanimous agreement among us that this was inflammatory, incitement to violence and that once again she was not sober while speaking. Yet what could anyone say? She is a judge.
On yet another occasion she described a farmer who let a line of traffic build up behind his tractor as "arrogant and individualistic". She then banned the driver, Michael Nevin, for one year although he maintained he had pulled over at the earliest opportunity to let traffic pass. Sound fairly unimportant? Consider that she herself has repeatedly courted controversy by consistently parking not just on double yellow lines outside Ballinrobe Courthouse but with poor co-ordination and sometimes one wheel on the path/one off, a practice highlighted by local councillor Harry Walsh. It seems that the issue of a District Court Judge blatantly flaunting the law - while doling out sentences to others - has raised the hackles of some locals. "Lawmakers should not be lawbreakers" Walsh reasonably maintains, adding: "I honestly don’t see why a Judge, or any servant of the State, or anyone else going into town for business should be allowed to flaunt the law by parking on double-yellow lines. I can see why prison vehicles and garda cars need to be adjacent, but not a private car."
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