November 22, 2010

An Irishman who was promised by a judge that he would be spared time in prison if he undertook a religious pilgrimage and said “a few prayers” has completed the task and raised about $4,000 for charity in the process.

Joseph McElwee had been convicted of drunken behaviour and verbally abusing a police officer and faced a prison sentence.

However, in March, Judge Seamus Hughes came up with a novel opportunity for McElwee to avoid prison time and ordered him to climb Ireland’s holiest mountain, Croagh Patrick in County Mayo.

McElwee reported to the court this week and showed Hughes photographs of himself and 13 friends on top of the roughly 800-metre mountain where St. Patrick fasted for 40 days in the fifth century.

At the time of his conviction, the judge said: “I want you to come back with evidence that you did the four stations of Croagh Patrick and say a few prayers.

You then might have a different impression of County Mayo and its people.”

The police officer whom McElwee insulted grew up near the mountain.

McElwee told the judge he regretted what he had done and had managed to raise money for charity during the climb.

Hughes asked if he had found climbing the mountain therapeutic and McElwee agreed that he had.