'Gestapo' tactics: No Unity in row between Limerick choir director and festival organisers

Maria Flannery

Reporter:

Maria Flannery

Gretta O’Shea, director of Unity Gospel Choir Limerick

Gretta O’Shea, director of Unity Gospel Choir Limerick

THE director of a Limerick choir, who just this week paid over fees owed to the organisers of an international event in Prague, accused them of using a “gestapo approach to retrieving monies”.

Organisers of the choral festival in the Czech Republic had to wait three months to receive the full participation fee payment from the director of Unity Gospel Choir Limerick, Gretta O’Shea.

The choir paid a deposit of €1,602 for the trip in late November, with another €1,602 due to be paid upon arrival. Ms O’Shea said that she attempted to pay the remaining half via an online transfer but “did not send the transfer properly or hit the wrong button”, so the balance was outstanding after the choir returned to Limerick.

The balance was paid this week, according to Ms O’Shea, who apologised for the “misunderstanding”.

The choir director admitted that there were heated email exchanges between herself and the Prague-based organiser, and that she said “lots of things I should not have”.

The Prague Advent Choral Meeting organisers had been in private contact with Ms O’Shea since the event, but she stopped responding to emails after some exchanges in which she promised to pay the fee.

In January, the Prague group took to Facebook, publicly calling on the Unity choir to pay the fee that they were owed. They also attempted to make contact with Ms O’Shea and her teenage children on Facebook.

In correspondence seen by the Limerick Leader, the choir master wrote to Stanislav Terlica of the Prague Choral Meeting, accusing him of “stalking” her and her family.

“I am so shocked at your bullying mafia creepy behaviour,” she wrote, adding that he was using a “Gestapo approach” to getting the money.

Mr Terlica told the Limerick Leader that Ms O’Shea initially alleged that she made a mistake in the transfer, and that the bank was investigating where her money went and would then return the funds to her account.

“When asked if she could send us the bank confirmation, she said we use Gestapo methods and are mafia. Suddenly her behaviour changed and she started calling us bad names,” said Mr Terlica.

“She wrote us a lot of very angry emails instead of paying the debt. We tried to contact her and her two adult children on Facebook, and she blocked us immediately - her son sent us a very mean message. Then she started telling us that we have harassed her children - everybody is so shocked - this is something so awful,” said Mr Terlica.

Ms O’Shea threatened to contact the country’s police and did in fact contact the Mayor of Prague.

“We promised never to contact her if she pays. We set February 10 as deadline - nothing arrived. Then she said she would pay in 3 parts to make sure we do not steal the money - why would we steal our own money? - and called us liars again,” said Mr Terlica.

Ms O’Shea wrote to Mr Terlica towards the end of the debacle: “Money will be paid. When I am ready and when somebody from your association sends a letter apology for all the abusive texts and emails not just to me but to my children… When I feel that it is all resolved to my liking - you will be paid but not until then.”

The Prague event organiser said: “We decided to publish the 3 months history of the debt on the festival Facebook page so that some other people would notice it, and maybe could help us. We have also contacted the Mayor of Limerick asking for help.”

Ms O’Shea told the Limerick Leader: “This was all my fault and my choir and all the wonderful people in my choir, have suffered because of me. I made a mistake, I let them down and I am truly heartbroken. I am so sorry to have caused my lovely husband and children, my friends and my beautiful choir family any distress at all. It was not my intention and I apologise from the bottom of my heart.”

The director denied misappropriating funds after allegations circulated on social media.

“There are people claiming that I have misappropriated funds from the choir and would have you believe terrible things about me. These are people who have wanted to discredit me for years, saying I used money inappropriately. We had two fundraisers before we went to Prague and any monies raised went into the trip. I have receipts for every penny which has ever been spent in the five years we are in existence,” she said.

“I would like to ask that people who support us to believe me when I say, there is no misappropriation of funds. And to the great people of Limerick who gave us sponsorships and who have supported us from the start, nothing underhanded was done by me or anyone else,” she added.