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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reclaiming the streets from the thugs irrespective of their class

On Tuesday, there was the very sad news about two deaths resulting from violent attacks that have become so commonplace on the mean streets of Dublin.

Liam McGowan (22), Kinlough, Co Leitrim, died at 1.30am at Beaumont Hospital where he had been on a life-support machine since the attack just over three weeks ago.

Liam had worked at Eagle Star insurance company, and was discovered lying on the street unconscious at the junction of Hardwicke Street and Frederick Court in the north inner city at 2.15am on Sunday, August 20th.

The Irish Times reported that Gardaí believe he was set upon by two men who stole €40 in cash and a mobile phone from him. Liam McGowan sustained serious head injuries during the attack. He had recently moved to Dublin after graduating with a commerce degree from NUI Galway.

Two men, aged 22 and 23, from Cabra and Dominick Street in the inner city, have already appeared before Dublin District Court.

Also on Tuesday, a Dublin pensioner who was attacked during a robbery at the bakery where he worked has died after slipping into a coma days after the attack.

Jimmy Louth (66), from Cabra, had been in a coma for nine weeks after he was attacked by raiders in the course of a robbery on July 3rd at Clarke's bakery, New Cabra Road, Dublin.

Jimmy was scheduled for a day off but had gone into work at 3.30am to help colleagues with early-morning deliveries.

Three raiders were waiting in a laneway at the back of the premises when Jimmy and another man arrived to begin the shift.

They were both tied up, and Jimmy was hit over the head with a broom handle.

The three-man gang then left the premises with an undisclosed sum of money.

Then on Tuesday evening, I got a call from Sydney advising of a mugging involving my son and a friend in which my son was stabbed in a leg, severing an artery.

Thankfully, he is recovering after an operation and I must say that I'm impressed by Detective Senior Constable Nick Seddon of Bondo Police Station who called early this morning and followed up with an e-mail. I'm also very impressed with the staff at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, Sydney.

In Dublin, violent crime isn't simply a class issue which was exemplified by the case of two middle class twentysomethings who beat a man senseless on Dublin's Grafton Street in the recent past and then got a rap on the wrist from a middle class judge.

Drink is often the excuse as it is with domestic violence. However, it should absolutely be no excuse whatsoever.

The argument about crime usually is one of extremes; throw away the key or excuse the crime because the perpetrator was dragged up in a grim tenement.

There is no simple remedy in rehabilitation but it is also absolutely inexcusable in a country that is awash with money that it appears that very little of significance is being done in this area and the state of our prisons was recently highlighted by the case of a person in the State's custody who feared for his life but was apparently left to be beaten to death by a fellow prisoner.

In The Sunday Business Post last month, columnist Tom McGurk wrote: Mr Justice Dermot Kinlen, the Inspector of Prisons, releases his annual report on the condition of our prisons, it makes a few extraordinary headlines and then an invisible door slams shut on all the controversy. We move on and nothing changes. For four years, Kinlen has been producing reports that have, on all occasions, highlighted the failure of our prison system and made various recommendations, which have been largely ignored.

Wealthy and middle class Ministers of Justice usually live almost on a different planet as do their well-paid officials and that is reflected in their attitude to rehabilitation.

While there should be rehabilitation, there should also be a clear and unmistakable deterrent to violence whatever the cause. Former Minister for Justice John O'Donoghue thought that "zero-tolerance" was a good sound bite, but did little in practice.

Policing should be more than Operation this or that; good headlines for the Minister for Justice and then the attention turns to something else. Road safety becomes an issue when there are a lot of deaths, promises follow but ho often is there consistent follow-through?

There is generally a blasé attitude to observance of the law. Is there for example a law against parking a car on a footpath, which has become very common?

It's really time to reclaim the streets.