| 11.7°C Dublin

Gerry O'Carroll: Who thought it wise to put an unarmed escort on this thug?


Derek Brockwell

Derek Brockwell

Kathryn Thomas

Kathryn Thomas

The Voice's Una Foden and Rachel Stevens

The Voice's Una Foden and Rachel Stevens

Roseann Brennan

Roseann Brennan

TD Michelle Mulherin

TD Michelle Mulherin


Derek Brockwell

Since when do we transport prisoners from our country's maximum security jail to hospital without armed escorts?

Who introduced this policy? Who thought it was a good idea? Whoever it was needs to take responsibility for the one-main crime rampage unleashed by Derek Brockwell last week. This English criminal escaped from Tallaght Hospital after stabbing two prison officers who were escorting him.

While on-the-run, it is believed that he carried out three armed robberies in the North before being arrested outside a pub in Belfast.

To make matters even worse, Brockwell had previously escaped from jail in the UK where he was serving 22 life terms for a string of armed robberies. We can't say we weren't warned.

He was serving a seven-year sentence at Portlaoise Prison after being convicted of an armed robbery at a bank in Dublin in 2012.

An investigation into Brockwell's case and the stabbing of the two prison officers is still ongoing, but the escape of a man who was once on Scotland Yard's most wanted list poses many unwanted and disturbing questions that I believe only an independent public enquiry can answer.

It was reported last week that, according to prison sources, authorities here suspected Brockwell of planning an escape as far back as May 2013, when he was on remand at Cloverhill Prison.

Despite this intelligence and the fact that he was incarcerated in our only maximum security prison, this violent and dangerous criminal was escorted on a hospital visit without an armed escort.

Surely any risk assessment of this dangerous thug would have demanded that an armed escort was vital, especially in the precinct of a hospital - for the safety of the medical staff and patients and public.

But no, there was no need for an armed escort. The rest, as they say, is history.

Brockwell's violent attack on two dedicated and brave prison officers highlights the deadly dangers these officials face on a daily basis.

They must and should be provided with all the resources and equipment that the State can provide to enable them carry out their thankless work.

Prison staff and the justice system itself have been badly let down by the authorities on this occasion.

A full public enquiry needs to be set up to prevent such an attack happening again.


Our telletubbie kids present a weighty issue

It may seem a bit drastic and over the top at first, but the suggestion made by Kathryn Thomas on weighing kids in school may not be that radical after all. 

Kathryn's novel (and controversial) approach to obesity is to have schools bring in a yearly weigh-in for every child.

That's because she believes that schools can be instrumental in developing good healthy eating habits from an early age.

There is merit in her suggestion and it is already policy in many schools that parents are advised to replace sugary foods, sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks with healthy options in lunch boxes.

But Kathryn is right when she says that many parents are in denial.

In fact, they are often blind to the fact that their little darlings are turning into telletubbies before their very eyes.

All the recent health surveys show that we Irish are piling on the pounds as never before and nowhere is this more evident than with our children.


Some surveys have shown that obese children as young as 10 are already showing signs of early heart disease and other debiliatating illnesses.

Many Irish kids are now so overweight that they are being considered, in medical terms, morbidly obese.

Sadly the prognosis for these children is long-term health issues such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

Given the situation's so serious, a weigh-in once a year to raise awareness would appear to be the least we can do. Fair play to Kathryn for suggesting it.


This show seems to have lost its Voice...

I'm not much of a fan of the The Voice of Ireland. In fact, I for one am convinced that this type of talent show has run its course. 

Bringing in new judges such as Una Foden and Rachel Stevens may have added a little novelty and excitement to the set up, but it's not enough.

The original singing competition format shows, The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, which The Voice of Ireland is broadly based on, have themselves failed to produce any new singing stars in recent years. This has been mirrored with The Voice of Ireland. It's certainly uncovered new talent, but the contestants who have won have not gone on to take the show business world by storm.

I'm qualified to express an opinion on this. I once took part in a talent show in Listowel, when I was 10-years-old - it was McFadden Road Show. I sang a lonesome old ballad called 'Noirin Bawn'...and won third prize for my efforts. Alas the judges' chairs didn't revolve for me on that night, I am sorry to say. But the 5 shillings prize made up for it.



Roseann Brennan's son Jake was only six-years-old when he was knocked down outside his home in a housing estate in Kilkenny. Roseann is now campaigning to have a maximum speed limit of 20kph enacted in all housing estates in the country. The dedicated mother recently held a vigil outside the Dail to highlight her cause. I hope she succeeds in this necessary campaign.



We often hear how hard politicians work to stay on top of their brief - all the long hours, the meetings, the calls etc. Many of us don't believe it. How refreshing then to read of the work of Michelle Mulherin, who has paid a further €1,295 for calls she made from Leinster House to an advisor in Kenya. She paid back €2,000 for calls last January. Now that's work.