'Mum, I was attacked last night and had to get staples in my head'
How a mother's nightmare came true for Florence Horsman Hogan after her son's night out in city ended in assault
Published 01/11/2015 | 02:30
It's the moment every mother dreads, isn't it?
You wake during the night and realise one of your chickens isn't in the nest where he's supposed to be. Now, as a mother of three fine strong sons, all in their twenties, I'm not exactly innocent as regards the ability of young males to wander out at night - but for some reason this felt different. The 21-year-old's bed looked as if it had not been slept in, and none of the family had seen him since early the previous evening.
I headed into work at about 6.30am, texting and ringing his phone every 15 minutes or so, again and again, not getting through. The resounding sound of silence was so deafening, I could hardly hear my thoughts. I just couldn't get rid of the nagging feeling that something was terribly wrong.
The mobile kept going into that agonising "this caller is unavailable, please try again later" mode, again and again and again. Eventually, at about 9am, I finally heard his voice answering. My gut-wrenching relief halted in its upward spiral and crashed south as I realised something was seriously wrong with his voice - it was quiet and just not right.
"Where are you?"
"The Mater Hospital"
"WHAT - what's wrong?"
"I was attacked last night and was brought in here. Got staples in my head and had to sit on a chair all night."
My brain was working at 90 miles a second. Phone my other son who is a garda, phone the hospital's director of nursing, phone any nurse that I knew who worked there - I'm a nurse myself. Phone the papers, the Army - anyone. But in the end - agonisingly - I could do nothing, there was no one I could phone to assuage my frustration and anger. There was no one who could un-ring the bell.
Apparently, the night before, he was with friends from college and went to McDonald's in O'Connell Street. He went upstairs to use the bathroom and two subhuman thugs blocked his way back out.
Now, this son is over six foot and he's strong. He's a qualified security guard and has taken boxing lessons in the past. One would think well able to defend himself. Not so.
Where one of my son's attackers was the same size as him and he might have stood a chance of getting away from the pair, the other was even bigger again. One grabbed a pole (a mop stick, my son thinks) and both laid into him, leaving him with a rainbow of bruises down his right arm and a gashing laceration to the head.
All he remembers after that is being down on the ground floor pouring blood and someone calling an ambulance.
Fair credit, though, to the emergency services - there were paramedics and a garda at the scene within minutes.
What really got to me was that this was no middle-of-the-night drunken brawl attack. This happened in the quintessential safest place for children, a place that would be considered part of a fun family day out - hamburgers, Ronald McDonald, happy times.
This lad has done everything he can to get work and make something of himself in an uncertain world. As well as training as a security guard, he's a health care assistant, and is also studying computer science from Monday to Friday. He's a hard worker with a gentle soul and a generous nature.
My outrage wasn't just for the wrong I felt had been visited on him - badly bruised arms as well as a split scalp. It was because two fine big cowardly hefty losers, some other mothers' sons, decided to attack him and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
And as far as we can tell, there was no motive. He had not come into contact with them at any stage earlier in the evening, and they made no attempt to rob any of his possessions.
Then his voice permeated my scrambling thoughts. "Mum please - it's fine. You're not to burst in here knocking down the nurses to get at me."
I bristled with righteous indignation, which is my default reaction when I don't know how to react to things my children say.
In all fairness I wouldn't have knocked down the nurses. I needed to hear what happened, so I kept calm.
My husband collected him and he came home later that day. I stayed at work, worried and ruminating.
When they're grown up like that, there's not all that much interfering even an Irish mammy can do. That evening, my blood froze when I saw and felt the steel staples holding his scalp together. But the horror of that paled later when I found his T-shirt, blood-soaked and torn.
Steel staples, bruises and a bloody T-shirt - what a great memento of an evening out in Dublin, one might say.
When discussing this with friends, the first comments were the usual, "You can't go anywhere in Dublin now without being attacked", or "Everyone knows O'Connell Street is full of crime".
In a recent study, 74pc of people said they feel safe in Dublin by day but only 35pc feel safe at night.
Crime figures would appear to bear this out, with assaults causing harm increasing in the last year by 23pc, while minor assaults were up 11pc.
Despite this, as a former Galwegian, I have to say I love Dublin and feel safe living in the city. O'Connell Street has a very high Garda presence.
This attack didn't happen on the streets, it happened inside a public building which was well lit and had a security guard - he was downstairs at the time of the attack.
More to the point, my son's attackers didn't have Dublin accents. He was under the impression that they hailed more from "down the country".
The Garda response was very quick and I feel confident that my son's attackers will be caught if our boys and girls in blue have anything to do with it.
While my son is very philosophical and accepting about it for some strange reason, I'm the one who'd like a few questions answered.
What I wouldn't give to meet those two chappies - with me flanked by a couple of gardai to even the odds - and have a little chat with them.
Irish mammy style, of course.