I was slightly late for work on Tuesday. Among leaving me a bit stressed and leaning a bit harder than usual on the accelerator, this also meant that I caught ten minutes more than usual on the radio. I’d like to say I heard something that inspired me but as Ray D’arcy sifted through the morning papers on Today FM, I realised that it’s entirely possible, in ten minutes to become completely disillusioned with a country.
Being let down by Ireland is a bit like being let down by a boyfriend. It hurts a bit more because you’ve invested feelings.
We’ve all invested feelings in this place. Even when we’re down to our last few million, we make banners slagging off the German woman in charge of the money. That’s just the way we are. But sometimes, like that old boyfriend, you just feel that love or no love, it might be time to give up. I felt like giving up on Ireland on Tuesday morning.
First story on the morning news was about serial rapist Patrick O’Brien. The 72-year-old walked free from court after admitting to having raped his daughter Fiona Doyle on a regular basis between 1973 and 1982. He walked free. He admitted what had happened and still walked free. Mr Justice Paul Carney suspended the last nine years of a 12-year sentence imposed on O’Brien after describing his crimes as one of the most serious cases of serial rape of a daughter. Still he left court and went home to the comfort of his living room. Fiona Doyle said she felt raped by the court system. I can see why. There I was, sitting in traffic, looking around me and wondering if our country had gone back to the dark ages. All this just a few months after a woman died in one of our hospitals after being refused a termination.
Fiona Doyle’s story dominated all the headlines, closely followed by another story. Same country, same justice system, and a businessman is sentenced to six years for failing to pay import duty on garlic. Paul Begley, 47, from Rathcoole in Dublin was given the longest sentence ever handed down for this type of offence in March last year and hit the headlines on Tuesday because he was appealing the sentence. What a day for it. Hearing this after hearing how a man walked free after repeatedly raping a child made me want to scream. There are legal heads who will argue the laws, and the precedents, and the fact that Patrick O’Brien isn’t well. They will argue til the cows come home that to take these two cases as examples of the justice system is a black and white approach.
At the end of the day, both these cases were decided by judges, actual human beings, Irish human beings - here in my home country.
Then, to add insult to serious injury, the next item on the news agenda was about publican Danny Healy Ray. The Kerry county councillor was advocating that people in his part of the world be given special dispensation to drive after a few drinks on quiet roads, because it would make them less depressed if they could drink more and could potentially prevent suicides in those areas.
This man, who was voted in by Irish people, proposed the motion to Kerry County Council which was passed by five votes to three with most of the councillors either absent or abstaining. However Justice Minister Alan Shatter has the final say and it’s expected he’ll put the idea in the bin, where it firmly belongs.
There are so many issues with Healy-Rae that it’s hard to know where to start.
No nonsense DJ D’arcy knew where to stop though and hung up the phone on Healy-Rae before he had chance to defend his ridiculous motion any further. Good job.
I sat there, drumming the steering wheel, looking out onto the frosty road.
I thought about the rape victim, the hung out to dry businessman and the brainless councillor and genuinely wondered where the hell this country has gone wrong.