THE owner of a creche on the outskirts of Limerick city who was prosecuted for breaches of childcare regulations has offered to make a €1,000 contribution to the Children’s Ark at University Hospital Limerick.
In September, Fiona Doheny of Tí Na Leanaí, Toureen Ballysimon, appeared before Limerick Court on foot of a prosecution brought by the Health Service Executive.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly was told all of the offences were detected during a routine inspection of the childcare facility which was conducted on February 27, last.
The judge was told at the time Ms Doheny was a registered childminder which allows her to mind up to five children in her own home. She was also registered to provide a sessional montessori service at a converted garage adjacent to her home.
However, on the day the inspection was conducted, she was running a full day-care service for up to 15 children and had not notified the HSE of this.
During a sentencing hearing this week, the judge was told Ms Doheny had sought expert advice since the legal proceedings were initiated and that she has now rectified matters
Dr Mary Moloney, who submitted a 30 page report to the court, said she personally visited the childcare facility on a number of occasions in recent months.
She said she found it to be “a very spacious, very bright child-friendly facility,” and she said there appeared to be a “warm and caring environment” there.
Ms Moloney, who has a PHD in early childcare education, said Ms Doheny had taken measures to address concerns which were raised by the HSE during the court proceedings and in previous inspection reports.
In her evidence she told Judge O’Kelly that in her opinion the facility was 100% compliant with of the relevant childcare regulations.
Solicitor Muiris Gavin said while certain issues have been resolved the HSE “still has concerns regarding safe sleeping”.
Ms Moloney said during her inspections she had not observed anything that would lead her to share the concerns of the HSE.
Judge O’Kelly was told there had been a number of previous breaches of the safe-sleep regulations but that none of these had been the subject of prosecution.
A number of parents, who have children attending Tí Na Leanaí gave evidence in support of Ms Doheny, who has been in childcare business for more than 20 years.
Nancy Lynch, who has two children in the creche said it was “like a second home” to her children and that she never had an issue.
Kathryn Fitzgerald, whose son is in his second year at the creche, said it was “absolutely fantastic” and that the care being provided was “second to none”.
Judge O’Kelly described the comments by the parents as “glowing” and he said had there been any parents with concerns they would have come forward following the publicity surrounding the original hearing.
The judge said he was satisfied there had not been a deliberate attempt to avoid the obligations as outlined in the Childcare Act.
HE said the HSE is entitled to ensure childcare facilities are operated to high standards but said there was no evidence the creche being operated by Ms Doheny is “not now 100% compliant”.
The judge said he had a difficulty imposing a penalty in the case when it was clear that Ms Doheny was “operating a fine facility”.
After being informed by solicitor Lorraine O’Callaghan Daly that the defendant was willing to make a €1,000 contribution to the Children’s Ark, he said he will strike out the charges if the contribution is paid by December 4, next.
“It is a very generous offer and I’m sure it will be well received before Christmas,” he commented.
Parents of children attending the creche have indicated they will organise a charity night in the coming weeks with all of the proceeds also going towards the Childrens Ark.