A young Wexford mother of three children, who obtained a total of €750 from two parish priests in Laois while claiming to be a social worker, was given the Probation Act when her case was concluded at Portlaoise District Court on Thursday, September 22.
Rebecca O’Leary (22) had already pleaded guilty to the three charges that occurred on October 8 and 12 last year – twice from Portlaoise Parish Centre and once from the Parochial House in Stradbally.
Evidence had been given that on October 8 last year, Ms O’Leary met Msgr John Byrne in Portlaoise and told him she was a social worker and needed €200 for a woman who was in danger of going to prison and that the money would be reimbursed.
The same day she met with the then parish priest of Stradbally, Fr Jim O’Connell, telling him the same story.
Two days later she again contacted the Parish Centre in Portlaoise where this time she said that another woman needed €350.
A number of days later, Ms O’Leary rang the parish priest at Ferrybank in Wexford requesting financial assistance for a woman who was in distress.
But by this time priests had alerted each other about the incidents after they became suspicious.
The priest agreed to meet with her and a garda was present and arrested the woman.
Ms O’Leary has paid back the money and her solicitor asked that the matter be settled without a conviction.
“No,” said Judge Catherine Staines. “This is too serious of an offence.”
She went on to impose the Probation Act.