A GRANDMOTHER will not be able to celebrate her 50th birthday today with her nine children and six grandchildren because she is locked up in prison over a planning row with Limerick County Council.
Geraldine Murphy, from Abbeyfeale, has been placed in an overcrowded cell in Limerick prison since last Monday and is sleeping on a mattress on a floor.
She suffers from a heart condition and diabetes and takes 15 tablets a day.
Her daughter, Yvonne, said last night the family were very concerned for her welfare, and appealed for her mother to be released from the 15-day term she is serving for non-payment of a €300 fine and €3,000 costs arising out of the row.
Yvonne Murphy said: "We went to visit her yesterday in the prison and she was very upset, in bits. My mum was a full-time carer for the past three years for our grandmother, who died two weeks ago. We will go and visit her for her birthday, but it's an awful state of affairs that our mother is locked up like this.
"We thought she'd do a few days and they'd let her out, but because there's a debt involved they've told us they can't let her out before the 15 days."
Ms Murphy was taken to court by the council for opening an entrance at the back of her council house in Abbeyfeale, leading onto a public car park, without planning permission.
The council took action against Ms Murphy for failing to comply with an enforcement order to remove the entrance.
She was brought to Limerick prison last Monday for failing to pay the fine and costs to the county council, arising from district court proceedings.
The council said the opening was against planning and if one person was let away with it, others could follow.
Ms Murphy's husband, Jack, said the opening had now been closed in accordance with the council's requirements. They had created the opening to enable them to bring in turf to the back of their house.
His wife, he said, was being forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor of a cell in the prison, due to overcrowding.
Mr Murphy said: "She buried her mother last week and is suffering from angina and diabetes. She will be spending her birthday on Friday in prison. I wanted to go instead of her, but they wouldn't take me, even though I am a joint tenant with my wife."
A council spokesman said representations had been made to officials to waive the €3,000 costs, but this could not be done.