Saturday 18 November 2017

A terrible reality is born as our State abdicates its duty

Heroin kingpin: Larry Dunne being escorted to prison after a long trial in Dublin in the 1980s
Heroin kingpin: Larry Dunne being escorted to prison after a long trial in Dublin in the 1980s

Fergal Keane

Looking back it is always tempting to say you saw it coming. I will resist that enticement. I was certainly blind to the oncoming deluge. Day after day under the stern admonitions of District Justice Murtagh de Burca, I watched the petty criminals of Limerick make their way to the industrial schools and the prisons, a conveyor belt of hopelessness that ensured nothing but recidivism.

The courts reflected the State they served: solid, dispensing justice as best they could, but already out of touch with the changing dynamics of the big council estates.

It was the same addresses always: St Mary's Park, O'Malley Park, and Ballinacurra-Weston. I lived in 'digs' in the latter and knew that the majority of people were law abiding. But a significant core of troubled families in these areas provided the basis for a burgeoning criminal underworld. In those days Limerick crime was still a matter of fists, boots and knives and relatively small pickings.

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