Paul Williams on Mayo shooting: 'When whole communities live in fear, tragedies like these are inevitable'
The killing of an innocent neighbour who appears to have been mistaken for an intruder by his friend, an elderly farmer, is ultimately a tragic consequence of the scourge of rural crime.
As gardaí continue their investigation to establish the full facts of how bachelor farmer Brendan Kilduff (67) was shot dead on Tuesday night, it is their belief that this was a tragic accident as the elderly man in his 80s who fired the shots from his legally held shotgun was living in fear of being attacked in his home.
The dead man had been visiting his elderly friend, who is also a bachelor farmer, as he often did - it's what older country people call a "ceilidh", which is Irish for a social visit where neighbours sit in the kitchen and chat.
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But when the visit was over and they had said their good nights, Mr Kilduff's car failed to start and when he returned to the house his friend, in a moment of confusion, fired a number of warning shots believing there were intruders outside.
Locals are understandably devastated by this tragedy as both men are decent and obliging, simple people who would never harm a fly.
The tragedy of Mr Kilduff's death is an unimaginable catastrophe to befall a man in the twilight of his years: realising that he has killed his friend.
It is unlikely that this poor man will face a criminal charge as this was clearly a terrible accident resulting from confusion and fear.
But one can only try to understand the psychological effect on him in the last years of what was a quiet, simple life.
This case serves to again highlight the real sense of fear of crime - particularly amongst elderly people living alone in isolated rural areas.
A neighbour told the Irish Independent yesterday that there had been spates of burglaries in the area over the recent past and they had left people living in fear, particularly elderly people living alone.
Mr Kilduff's friend was, his neighbours say, preoccupied with the fear of being burgled in his own home.
And there are many more people living in those circumstances.
While the burglaries are still happening, it has to be acknowledged that there has been a very significant drop in rural crime in recent years, thanks to gardaí's Operation Thor.
However, the after-effects of the epidemic of widespread lawlessness that caused rural folk to take to the streets forcing the Government to allocate extra Garda resources, are still keenly felt down the isolated boreens and laneways of rural Ireland.