Updated: 27/01/17 : 04:49:57
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Charity body forces Sligo town soup kitchen closure

SLIGO COURT has closed the soup kitchen in High Street and its charity shop in Quay Street with immediate effect.

This follows a decision by Judge Kevin Kilraine, who said he was ''reluctant'' to do so.

The court heard yesterday that the soup kitchen feeds forty people a day in Sligo town on a 'shoestring' budget.

Previously, the 'Twist' shop and soup kitchen was featured on RTE's 'Late Late Show.'

Interestingly, the closure request has not come from a health-related regulatory agency.

Powerful Plea

Instead the Charities Regulator exercised its statutory powers in taking the case before the local court.

They were represented in the district court by barrister Donal Keane.

Local solicitor Tom MacSharry made a powerful plea to adjourn the closure.

The soup kitchen is ''a necessary part of the fabric in Sligo,'' said Mr MacSharry.

Further Offences

Mr Keane, barrister, opposed the adjournment bid -- the Charities Regulator had ''serious concerns'' about the operation, he said. 

As long as the two premises remain open, further offences are being committed, said Mr Keane.

''Unsuspecting people in Sligo are handing over money to an unregulated charity,'' he added.

It is believed to be the first such case taken in Ireland under the Charities Act. 

The shock closure was a main item reported by RTE North West Correspondent Eileen Magnier on its 'Six One ' national television bulletin yesterday evening. 

Oliver Williams, who set up the soup kitchen and shop, remains before Sligo District Court accused of breaching the Charities Act by failing to register them as charities.

He told the court how the soup kitchen feeds forty people every day in Sligo and its only income is from the charity shop.

The shop makes about 200 to 250 a week which covers the weekly rent of each premises, he said.

If the shop closes there is no money for the soup kitchen, the court heard.

      The Twist Charity shop in Quay St (opposite Town Hall) provides income for the soup kitchen

Bigger Items

The shop's finances were all done on ''a cash basis,'' said Williams in response to queries from Judge Kilraine.

Receipts, he added, were only given ''for bigger items, like furniture.''

Mr Williams said it was a ''shoestring operation'' and there was never any excess.

Both Operations

Judge Kilraine said the only way he would grant an adjournment would be on basis that ''both operations'' would be closed forthwith.

Said Judge Kilraine: ''Nothing short of tight regulation and oversight is acceptable.''

Defence solicitor Tom MacSharry said he was ''simply fighting for the soup kitchen, a necessary part of the fabric in Sligo.''

Ruling, Judge Kilraine said he was ordering it to close ''with reluctance.''

But he expected that ''the St Vincent de Paul Society'' would step in to fill the gap.

The case is due to return to the local district court next week.