The murder and dismemberment of Drogheda teenager Keane Mulready-Woods last week sent a chill through this society. The savagery was exceptional even if all murders are savage to one degree or another. In a society grown used to relative calm and the general absence of atrocity since the North’s decades of terrorism ended, it touched a raw nerve. It also seemed a seminal moment even if only time can tell whether it provokes the kind of reaction that effectively challenges the culture that supports and builds crime empires on such inhumane behaviour.
That that murder was followed so quickly by the off-the-cuff murder of Cork student Cameron Blair, aged 20, apparently by young strangers, adds to the impression. That atrocity fueled the argument that this society had crossed a Rubicon and that it has become more violent and that violence is seen more often than heretofore. As is always the case when dealing with specific moment-in-time cases it is difficult to have a suitably wide perspective and not to imagine that today’s horrors are a new, frightening normal.
That less than a week after the Mulready-Woods and Blair murders a young man, aged 23, was attacked and beaten before being doused with petrol and set alight in the Mayfield area of Cork city can only add to the inevitable demands “that something firm be done to stop these outrages”. That yesterday’s arrest of two men after a cocaine processing lab and almost €200,000 cash were seized during searches in Co Galway is so everyday as to be hardly even newsworthy seems another warning of the wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee kind. So too did yesterday’s Irish Examiner report that secondary school students now routinely budget to buy cocaine to use on the night of their graduation celebrations.
That all of those involved in these misadventures were so very young can only add to the justified shock and concern. That the Cameron Blair murder investigation is focused on leaving cert-aged teenagers must also be significant. Keane Mulready-Woods was even younger — he was just 17 when he was butchered.
Shocking as these events are they can hardly be described as surprising. After all, just three months ago this newspaper reported that a chronic shortages of gardaí meant that only two officers — yes, only two — patrolled Cork city centre on a particular night. Almost as an aside we reported that a sex crimes unit cannot take on further cases because it is inadequately staffed. Those reports also pointed out that the number of detectives working in Cork city had almost halved. Those reports described an environment where escalating crimes rates are almost encouraged as those charged with preventing crime are already overwhelmed.
Despite the outrage provoked in recent days the UN’s Global Study on Homicide 2019 found Ireland has a homicide rate of 0.9 per 100,000 which is slightly under northern Europe average. Despite that, we need to quickly strengthen garda numbers on the streets and more vigorously challenge the conditions — social or cultural — that seem to make this level of savagery all too common.