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Andrew Lynch: A masterly sermon by courageous cleric on the drug menace

The Catholic Church has taken an almighty battering over the last few years, much of it completely deserved.

Every so often, however, we are reminded that individual priests are still capable of performing acts of great decency and courage.

That's the only way to describe the explosive sermon delivered by Fr Seamus Ryan at the funeral of the Corbally brothers in Ballyfermot last Saturday morning -- a powerful condemnation of the Dublin drugs trade that will never be forgotten by anybody who was there to hear it.

Fr Ryan's homily stood out for one simple reason. He told the truth.

The parish priest of St Matthew's Church did not forget that he had a responsibility to minister to a grieving family, but he also pointedly told mourners that the vicious double murder was a stark reminder of how easy it was for young men "to drift into a way of life that was dangerous to them and to others".

At one stage during the sermon, a close relative of the Corballys approached the altar and quietly asked Fr Ryan to stop implying that the brothers had been involved in the drugs trade.

The priest handled an awkward situation with great skill, making it clear that his comments applied to the community as a whole rather than any individual family.


On the wider issue, however, he refused to pull his punches -- declaring that Irish society needs to ask itself why so many intelligent young people find themselves lured into the mindless violence and tit-for-tat killings of gangland crime.

As a wake-up call, this one was long overdue.

The Corballys were the 34th and 35th victims of gangland murder since the start of 2008, in what has become the worst wave of organised crime killings in the history of the State.

It is widely believed that the brothers were involved in a feud with one of the city's major heroin and cocaine gangs -- which means that their deaths are likely to result in even more revenge shootings on the streets of Dublin.

Some people take the attitude that as long as gangland criminals are only killing each other, there is no reason for the rest of us to worry about it.

As tempting as that might be sometimes, ultimately we cannot afford to take such a selfish approach.

In many cases, the victims leave behind children who are blameless of any crime -- and in others, innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire for no other reason than that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The political response to all this mayhem has been feeble, devoid of imagination and painfully slow.

Whenever a particularly shocking murder occurs, the Minister for Justice and his opposition counterparts routinely express their complete outrage and promise that a watershed has been reached.

When it comes to doing anything meaningful, however, such as responding to gardai's private pleas for greater resources and tougher sentences, both the Government and the opposition have largely proved to be all talk and no action.

That's why we urgently need community leaders such as Fr Seamus Ryan to make their voices heard.

His church in Ballyfermot contains a remembrance wall that is covered with the names of over 200 local young people who have had their lives cut short by the scourge of drug addiction.


Last Saturday's sermon hammered home the message that while some young men are attracted by the "big bucks" they can achieve in the narcotics trade, fancy cars and designer labels are no consolation for having your life expectancy cut short by decades.

Truth is supposed to be the first casualty of war.

As long as brave men such as Fr Ryan keep telling it like it is, however, this is a war that we still have a chance of winning.