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Six family members kicked off bus lose defamation claim

The court heard Jennifer Dardis had previous convictions for theft and having had possession of “some sort of weapon”.

Image: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

A JUDGE HAS thrown out a claim for defamation by an extended Dublin family of six women, one of whom, Martina Dardis, lost an earlier social welfare claim when a court heard she had put more than €200,000 through her Credit Union account.

Unemployed Martina Dardis (34), of Patrick Heeney House, Summerhill, and her five fellow claimants alleged in the Circuit Civil Court they had been defamed by Bus Éireann when accused of not having paid bus fares in June 2013, while travelling from Dublin to Knock, Co Mayo.

Judge James O’Donohoe dismissed the claims after hearing only two of the six women give evidence – Mary Murphy (59) of Carrington, Northwood, Santry, and her niece Jennifer Dardis (36), of North Strand Road.

He said their evidence was tainted by previous convictions for larceny which had been brought to the court’s notice by barrister Jeri Ward, counsel for Bus Eireann.

The court heard Jennifer Dardis had previous convictions for theft and having had possession of “some sort of weapon”, and Mary Murphy had a previous conviction for theft.

Judge O’Donohoe said the incident arose during what would appear to be a routine checking of people entering buses.

He said six adult family members, including Bernadette Curtis, of Upper Gloucester Place; Joan Dardis, of North Strand Road, and Martina Curtis, of George Reynolds House, Irishtown, and four children had entered the bus. Some of the adults had free travel passes.

Sleeping child

Jennifer Dardis, who had been travelling with her two children, Josh (nine years of age at the time) and Christian (three at the time) had told the bus driver that the youngest one had been sleeping and she had asked if she could settle him on a seat before paying for her fare and those of her children.

The bus driver had told the court that two minutes before departing, as there had been no sign of anybody coming up to pay, he went towards the family members and asked if somebody would mind paying for the remaining fares.

He had called a bus inspector after Jennifer Dardis told him she did not have to pay for the children. He denied having spoken loudly or told the family they had to leave the bus. The gardaí were eventually called and the family got off the bus.

Dismissing the six claims and awarding legal costs to Bus Éireann, the judge said he was satisfied Jennifer Dardis had caused the controversy although she had been given some latitude by the bus driver.  Judge O’Donohoe said:

I am satisfied that she had no intention to pay for herself and for her children. Had she paid as she should have paid, the matter would have been resolved.

In 2012, the Circuit Court dismissed an appeal by Martina Dardis against a decision by the social-welfare deciding officer attached to the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) who had ruled that she could not claim either single parent’s allowance or a carer’s allowance.

The then Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Matthew Deery, had ruled that Martina Dardis had not made a full and frank disclosure of her means.

Judge Deery had ruled that the CAB deciding officer and a forensic accountant to the Bureau — neither of whom could be named — had set out in detail the money from unknown sources that had passed through Martina Dardis’s bank accounts.

Judge Deery had been told during the 2012 hearing that Martina Dardis had banked more than €210,000 in a credit union account over the previous 13 years.

Read: Meath woman stole €132,000 from employer to repay money she had taken from previous job >

More: Your bus, rail and Luas fares are going up today >

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About the author:

Saurya Cherfi and Ray Managh

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