Political Notebook: Putting life in Ireland in perspective

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It took a priest, out of his sick bed to participate in the funeral of a murdered garda, to put Irish life in perspective in these turbulent beginnings to 2013.

It took a priest, out of his sick bed to participate in the funeral of a murdered garda, to put Irish life in perspective in these turbulent beginnings to 2013.

Fr Michael Cusack was, no doubt, aware of his audience. The President, Michael D Higgins, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, and several Ministers and TDs were among the attendance to say goodbye to Det Garda Adrian Donohoe in Louth.

It was a tragic occasion, incapable of being put into words.

The heartrending sight of the garda’s young family at the graveside, torn asunder in grief, yet fiercely proud of a husband and father, touched the entire country.

It was in that context that Fr Cusack made his plea, firstly, to have the perpetrators of that foul deed brought to justice.

His language was unequivocal. “If you have a semblance of good in you, for God’s sake turn these people in,’’ he said. “If not, you are allowing Satan ruin the lives of more people.”

He was equally unequivocal in his reference to the closure of garda stations which was coincidentally happening in the same week as the murder of the young garda.

His personal anecdote was telling. When he went back to his native community in Galway, the one garda who had been based there for years had gone. Since his departure, two men in their 80s had had “their heads bashed in’’ at their homes, one of them left without hearing or a sense of smell as a result.

That is now, unfortunately, the island we live in.

The old days of a close rural community, where the elderly in particular could feel safe, is long gone.

The problem is not new. Rural isolation had become a factor in advance of that wretched Celtic Tiger.

And it remained a problem right throughout those wasted years when we had the resources to tackle it in a strategic way.

Now the cupboard is bare. And so we have the closure of garda stations.

Nobody is doubting the Minister’s integrity on the issue. After all, Stepaside in his own Dublin South constituency, has lost its garda station and gardai.

But why can this Government not see that there is a societal aspect to this decision which goes right to the heart of people’s daily lives?

What kind of Government can stand over a situation where people cannot have a stress-free night’s sleep? How are we reduced to this state of farce in the island of saints and scholars?

People are under enormous pressure as they fight the economic war. Survival is the name of the game for many individuals and families.

And now, on top of all that misery and pressure, people are without, in many cases, the reassuring presence of the local garda.

The local garda, like the local priest and district nurse, are frequently social workers as well. They are particularly conscious of the requirements of the elderly or those families who feel vulnerable when there is a series of break-in the local community.

The blunt reality is that communities are dying. Those hideous unfinished housing estates are a symbol of that death.

Emigration is also taking its toll. The lifeblood of any community is its people.

Yet again, the age old Irish horror story is repeating itself. The young are going in their droves.

And every Christmas and summer, the same awful ritual is repeated. Tears of parents and siblings.

And the tears of the emigrants whose only consolation is that they are going to where they can find that other basic right, a job.

Today they are leaving disintegrating communities. In many cases, the local post office is no more. There might not even be a local priest in years to come, as the decline in vocations continues.

Will this Government do a rethink? Who knows?

If there is an increase in rural crime, and if people continue to feel a sense of danger, then there surely will have to be a reversal of that decision?

And that, unfortunately, is the kind of governance of this country to which we have become accustomed.

Governance is about responding, in the main, to the latest societal problem.

Rarely do we see governance which anticipates problems.

If we did, we would not be in the mess we are in today.

Back in the 1940s, Eamon De Valera outlined his vision of an Ireland of cosy homesteads, athletic youths and happy maidens.

Our firesides, he said, would the forum for the wisdom of old age.

Look at us today. People marching in the streets for the right to feel safe in their own homes. The firesides of the elderly are sometimes places of fear and insecurity.

Meanwhile, the athletic youths and the happy maidens are seeking employment abroad.

God help us! The Irish people have been handed down a fiscally and morally bankrupt society.