A long admirer of the philosophy of John Lonergan, I was privileged to attend the Mountjoy governor's public lecture in Drogheda on modern society.
Without notes, and with great humour, he enthralled his audience for over an hour on why we have travelled so rapidly from being a caring, extended family in Ireland to the current frenetic, lonely, dysfunctional and disconnected collection of individuals.
It was wonderful to see his passion for humanity and for the inherent good in most people if sought and encouraged.
He is an expert on the wrong end of human existence and explained quite graphically the futility of short-term, knee-jerk punitive "solutions".
He gave a morning talk on drugs in Cork, worked in Mountjoy in the afternoon and came to Drogheda in the evening. This is one priceless public servant.
His point was that people themselves have the power to get back towards where we were a generation ago, making it clear that there is no easy way and people must take personal responsibility for doing something to bring their own communities together.
It was wonderful and inspiring stuff and is doable if the public want to embrace it.
His whole lecture was steeped in a rare modern commodity: common sense.
You must sit and talk with youngsters, he said, give them respect, get their trust and they will listen.
But what can be done in the short term?
Could an all-party board not engage with informed opinion like Lonergan, McVerry, the Garda Commissioner, Law Library et al and put a practical package of short- and long-term objectives together?
It is inexcusable that we do not put the wisdom of John Lonergan to the maximum use.