Friday 30 September 2016

Shutting down normal life for a gangland funeral? They'd never let it happen in D4

Published 17/02/2016 | 02:30

'Perhaps the starkest example of just how much power we have ceded to these gangs came with Monday’s funeral and the closure of two local schools'
'Perhaps the starkest example of just how much power we have ceded to these gangs came with Monday’s funeral and the closure of two local schools'

What a difference a fortnight makes. After the now infamous gun attack in the Regency Hotel on February 5, which saw gangster David Byrne murdered in full view of hundreds of horrified onlookers, we were informed - again - by the authorities that this was an outrage, an abomination and something that would not be tolerated.

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In other words, we were treated to the usual stock talking points from members of a political establishment who prove, day after day, that they are woefully ill-equipped to deal with this current scourge.

The huffing and puffing from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald failed to cut much ice with the gangsters.

Dublin must be the only capital city in the civilised world where criminals can launch a daylight assault using AK-47s, safe in the knowledge that there will be no police presence to foil them.

We are certainly the only city in the EU that now has reporters labouring under the very real threat of a gangster's gun.

It would be a stretch to say that these are signs of a failed State, as some have suggested.

But these developments are certainly an indicator that the foundations of our nation are not as sturdy as we would like them to be.

From the daylight assassination in the Regency Hotel to the attack on an innocent member of the Hutch family to the threats made against the reporters, we are witnessing an increasingly brazen criminal class that only acts with such impunity because they know that they have a good chance of getting away with it.

There will always be criminals and criminality, which is why the opposition of some TDs to the Special Criminal Court on the grounds that we should 'aspire' to having a gangland-free society is such utter bunkum.

But what is particularly concerning about the current situation is that, to quote one senior criminal's remarks to a garda the other day: "Once these funerals are over, all bets are off."

In other words, neither side of the feud is particularly concerned about any official response.

They will do what they do, not just because that is how criminal gangs operate, but because every time they raise the bar, nothing happens.

In fact, many of those living in the Crumlin area - where David Byrne lived - are furious that the gardaí seem to have spent as much time in warning the warring parties over potential threats to their lives as they have in protecting the innocent.

Perhaps the starkest example of just how much power we have ceded to these gangs came with Monday's funeral and the closure of two local schools.

There's no doubt this funeral was a difficult task for any priest, given the local tensions.

It certainly was no easy task for Fr Niall Coghlan, trying to balance his pastoral duties with the reality of the febrile situation on the ground.

He trod a fine line in handling the emotions of a grieving family and those of the wider community. It was a tough job, but he seems to have pulled it off and, in fact, he is probably one of the few players in Monday's affair to have emerged with credit.

But have we really come to this? Is this what we will remember from 2016? The year the schools shut for a gangland funeral?

Few people - outside the area, that is - seemed to grasp the significance of this decision. The message it gave was clear: education in working-class areas is a disposable luxury when confronted with a criminal's funeral.

Forget the hand-wringing - if the funeral was indeed as grave a potential threat to public safety as the authorities claimed, then it is the funeral that should have been cancelled, not the school day.

The kids, of course, will be delighted they got a day off, and nobody can blame them.

But the message to those same kids is clear - David Byrne was a serious man of respect and was of such importance that his death was worthy of a day off.

The only time a school should be closed to mark a death is when a major national figure, such as a former president, dies.

That should be screamingly obvious.

Would such a decision have been made if the funeral was taking place in a Donnybrook church?

If Byrne had moved to that area and if his funeral had clashed with a major schools rugby match in nearby Donnybrook Stadium, would they have cancelled the rugby match?

Nobody knows the answer to that, but I think we can all accept that if the two schools forced to close were Blackrock College and St Michael's, there might have been far more wailing and gnashing of teeth in the media.

This is another example of how people from Dublin 8 and Crumlin and other urban areas in Ireland are marginalised.

There was no respect shown for the parents who would have to make alternative arrangements and, even more fundamentally, no respect for the kids themselves.

More of these funerals are a real possibility, should the bullets start flying again.

Are we going to shut every school every time a gangland figure is buried?

Remember that this happened in Dublin 8.

Because it wouldn't have been allowed to happen in Dublin 4.

Irish Independent

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