Appalling assault on elderly woman

IT takes a particularly heinous mind to subject an elderly person to the terror and humiliation that a 90-yearold woman was put through in Listowel on Sunday night.

Pensioner Bridie Leahy was deeply traumatised after a terrifying ordeal in which burglars broke in through her bedroom window in the middle of the night demanding she hand over money. She was found lying on the floor of her bedroom on Monday morning, in a state of shock following the horrific ordeal to which she was subjected.

Her neighbours and the broader community in Listowel are deeply shocked and angry this week as they try to make sense of the cruelty meted out to such a vulnerable old lady.

Unfortunately, incidents like this remind us of the existence in our midst of people who are evidently without any scruples whatsoever; of a criminal mindset prepared to do anything for gain. Never mind that a 90-year-old woman will now have to struggle with the painful process of getting over such an ordeal; never mind that her family have been left almost as upset - the person or persons who carried out this vile act escaped with a quantity of cash, achieving exactly what they had set out to do.

With such an element now operating in rural Ireland, it is little wonder that there is so much anger over the State's plans to impose severe cuts in our police force and to close garda stations that, while they may not be economically justifiable, give people a sense of security in their homes. Surely it is not too much to ask that elderly people living in Kerry's towns and villages should be able to live without the fear of being robbed and molested by people whose values are drawn from the gutter. Ms Leahy's ordeal occured only days after a 96-year-old woman was assaulted in a similar burglary in rural Donegal.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter is clearly of the opinion that many parts of rural Ireland are sufficiently covered by gardaí to the extent that he is closing down small stations. He has also initiated plans to cull the force by up to 1,000 gardaí - a massive swathe of a force that numbers 13,500 officers in total.

It is an indictment of society as a whole that, from Brosna to Lauragh, vulnerable, elderly people are deeply fearful for their security. Meanwhile our Government's short-sighted cuts will undoubtedly cost far more in the long term in criminal damage, the theft of hard-won wealth and, ultimately, the loss of confidence in the State's ability to protect its citizens.

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