Tuesday 22 August 2017

Lay of the Land: Sickening sacrilege of our sacred places

Lilly Murphy from Ringsend waters the flowers with her water container enjoying the good weather in Saint Stephens Green, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Lilly Murphy from Ringsend waters the flowers with her water container enjoying the good weather in Saint Stephens Green, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Fiona O'Connell

The fantastic weather over Easter nudged Mother Nature into performing a series of glorious resurrections of her own to mirror the religious holiday. Everything too shy to show its face before was persuaded to blossom.

The good weather meant I could enjoy a holiday at home. Foreign fields were never on the cards, thanks to finances, though I had planned a road trip up north. But that had to be cancelled, as I couldn't afford a pleasure trip to a park, let alone the next province, due to extra costs incurred when life intervened. Or maybe that should be low-lifers. For my car window was smashed and my belongings stolen when I stopped at an old church in another country town en route to Dublin.

This sacred place used to be my preferred pause point between the city and my new country home before the motorway was extended. Complete with round tower and the graves of the long departed, many bearing names that you rarely see any more, the church is surrounded by beautiful old trees and rolling pastures.

I used to watch in amusement on sunny days as a cat spooned a collie in the yard of a neighbouring farm, the flirty feline snuggled into the accommodating canine as they basked in the rays. The collie and cat are still there, although they are getting on now, so the farmer told me with a smile. But while things look much the same as when I regularly visited this apparent oasis, everything has changed.

"A few short years ago, you could park outside that church and leave your car doors open," the farmer said. He described as "sickening" the way gangs now read death notices so they can target funerals.

For similar crimes are occurring across rural Ireland. A local told me about an Easter service that took place in another part of this county. Seven of those who attended emerged from the cemetery to discover their car windows smashed in and the contents stolen.

When did it all change?

"Since the boom," the farmer answered, without hesitation. He believes "a bad lot" who moved here are largely responsible.

He is one of many who say the situation has worsened with the closure of so many rural Garda stations. That particular town still has one, but the gardai no longer live locally.

Most importantly, they used to go on the beat. "They'd walk around and soon know what's going on," he said. "Now guards take an age coming out when you call them and they don't know the troublemakers the way they would if they were living in the town."

As for the criminals, the farmer says we should "send them off to do something useful".

Hopefully nowhere too nice that could make do for a holiday.

Sunday Independent

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