independent

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Zero tolerance for lowest of the low who burgle the elderly

NIALL DELANEY

Published 22/01/2013 | 15:41

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ITHINK some people have been missing the point in the past few weeks in the debate over the escalation in rural crime, and crimes against the elderly. The populist approach, and indeed the political one, for those who shamefully see fit to make this a political issue, is that all this is directly related to a reduction in Garda numbers, and a closure of rural Garda stations.

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There are criminals, and gangs, we are led to believe, who use these Government/Troika cutbacks to their advantage, and will swoop in areas where Garda manpower has been reduced. Hmm. Steady now. On this we will agree. It is an abomination for anyone to attack an elderly person, let alone rob them of their belongings.

In the past week alone, we've heard of attacks on an elderly woman in Drumcliffe, and a burglary at the home of a 96-year-old woman in the heart of Sligo Town, in which an axe was used by the thugs to gain access.

However, it seems to me that there's more at play here than expecting a Garda to be at every street corner, and patrol cars at every crossroads.

I was watching a most interesting programme on RTE this week in tribute to the late Páidí Ó Sé.

'Maroooned' told the story of how Páidí took over management of the lowly Westmeath football team, and in his very first year – 2004 — brought them a Leinster senior title for the first time in their history.

But it wasn't what Páidí said which resonated, but rather the comments of a local football coach of underage kids.

He said parents now treated the dropping off of their kids at football practice as if they were dropping them off at a creche.

They expected their kids to be minded, while they went off shopping for an hour.

Nobody becomes involved anymore on a voluntary basis, no one offers lifts, no one offers to help out. And why ? Because people have less time. More money, but less time (the era of the Celtic Tiger was this...). Isn't that half the problem here? We've lost our sense of community, our sense of helping out, our sense of looking out for others.

And before anyone mentions pot and kettle in the same breath, yes, I'm as guilty as anyone in this regard.

I'm not exactly advocating a return to the Meitheal mentality, but when you hear older people talking about the fear they feel when someone rings their doorbell, or walks up their driveway, you realise we've got it so very wrong.

The other point to be made is an obvious one.

Forget about arming yourself, or as one Galway councillor put it succintly last week, blowing the legs off any intruder who comes into his home.

They wouldn't come into the house in the first place if the consequences of being caught were too frightening to contemplate.

I listened carefully to the words of Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, in the wake of all these crimes against the elderly.

He said those who carry out such crimes have no moral compass.

A burglary of an elderly person's house is unacceptable, he said; an attack on an elderly person is incomprehensible.

Then do something about it, Minister. Punish the bastards, and punish them hard.

Zero tolerance for anyone involved in a crime against an older person.

Introduce specific legislation to hand down harsher sentences for such crimes. Bring back the Fear element.

Someone made the comment this week that describing these criminals as animals is doing a disservice to animals – I couldn't agree more.

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