A leading Donegal GAA referee has pleaded guilty to receiving almost €27,000 in job seeker’s allowance despite being a farmer and receiving grants from the Department of Agriculture.
Enda McFeely appeared at Letterkenny District Court charged with illegally seeking job-seekers allowance on four occasions between 2011 and 2015.
The court was told that the 35-year-old claimed a total of €26,927.33 from the Department of Social Protection of which €3,930 had been paid back.
Inspector with the Department of Social Protection, Joseph Harrison said McFeely got the maximum amount of job seeker’s allowance each of the four times he applied for it.
McFeeley was initially investigated after his name appeared on a Revenue Defaulter’s List when he was fined €2,500 for using green diesel.
A review of his file showed his occupation was that of a farmer with a herd number and that he was receiving grants from the Department of Agriculture for €6,051 in 2018.
The court was told that when interviewed about this McFeely, of Radharc Na Coillte, Drumkeen, admitted that he owned some cattle but that he was not making much money from them.
Inspector Harrison said the accused had the opportunity to appeal the case but he did not and was now paying back €50 per week of the overall sum of almost €27,000 which he had overclaimed.
If the rate of payment was to continue it would take McFeely more than eight years to pay back the cash lost to the Department, he added.
Solicitor for McFeely, Mr Ciaran Haran, said the situation was that there was a joint effort on the farm with his father.
He added that his client left school at 15 and worked on construction sites with his father and in 2008 aged 22 he was given the herd number.
Judge Paul Kelly asked: “Why did his father not have a herd number?”
Solicitor Haran this was the cause of some agitation within the family but thankfully this had been resolved.
Mr Haran added that his client was a very well-known GAA referee who is on a panel for inter-county GAA games and referees at a very high level.
He suggested that any conviction could have consequences for this.
The accused man’s solicitor said that Mr McFeely had suggested he could get the balance of the money owed from his father and pay off the debt immediately.
Mr Haran added that if the case could be adjourned for three months and the cash paid back then the court could possibly take a sympathetic view of the case.
Judge Kelly said he would adjourn the case until April 6th to allow Mr Haran to have an opportunity to explore that avenue with his client.