Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

A death that highlights disease plaguing Dublin

Will the senseless killing of journalist Eugene Moloney finally spur gardai into cleaning up the Irish capital's violent streets, asks Henry McDonald

Sometimes, in life, it's nice to be wrong. I will never forget the last US presidential election, when I was convinced that John McCain, rather than Barack Obama, would occupy the White House.

But, sometimes, it's equally horrible to be right. Unfortunately, my warning here recently about the perils of pounding the pavements of central Dublin became tragically prophetic at the weekend.

Eugene Moloney, a former reporter at the Irish News, Evening Herald and Irish Independent, lost his life in a senseless, random assault in Dublin's Lower Camden Street early on Sunday.

Following the initial shock and sadness over Eugene's death, I felt a chill run down my spine on Sunday afternoon.

I had bumped into the reporter just a couple of weeks earlier while I was out shopping. Carrying a bag bulging with food and wine, Eugene strolled up across Dame Street and George Street en route back to his home in the Portobello area.

He was his usual jovial self, having returned to Ireland to reboot his journalism career. He seemed on the surface to be getting back into the swing of things and we parted with a promise to meet up for a pint or two in the near future. It would be the last time I would see him alive.

Eugene's death has highlighted the cruel, random nature of the street violence that infects certain parts of central Dublin in these grim economic times.

The fatal assault is also a reminder that not all of the aggression in the Republic's capital is caused by desperate drug addicts who mug you in the hope of stealing something to pay for their next fix.

Sometimes, violent attacks are simply down to young men who are highly strung-out on alcohol, machismo and testosterone.

Among the expressions of sympathy to Eugene's family this week was one from the sisters of a Dublin woman who died in an equally senseless assault last month.

Cancer sufferer Phyllis Black died after being punched in the back of the head outside a fast-food outlet in Parnell Street. The 51-year-old fell and hit the ground after she was assaulted by a woman who has since given a confession to gardai.

In the same month, Dubliner Luke Walsh was convicted of plunging a glass into another man's neck, severing his jugular and almost killing his victim.

For that crime, Walsh received a suspended prison sentence and a €2,000 (£1,600) fine.

Aside from lenient sentences for crimes against the person, you could hardly describe the current policy towards securing Dublin city-centre streets as pro-active.

On certain stops on the Luas tramline, there is open drug-dealing. Ditto the boardwalks along the Liffey between the Ha'penny Bridge and Liberty Hall.

As I pointed out here recently, the more savvy Dublin citizen does not take out his iPhone even if it rings in thoroughfares, including O'Connell Street, for fear of being mugged. There is a palpable atmosphere in places like the Luas stop at the Bus Aras after dark, or from Connolly Station leading up to Talbot Street at night.

There really does need to be, frankly, more of a Garda presence on the streets to make the citizen and, equally important, tourists safe from the feral gangs who prowl the city-centre morning, noon and night.

As I write this, prompted by Eugene's death, I am mindful that this is also the 16th anniversary of the murder of his Independent Newspapers colleague Veronica Guerin.

After her killing, the Irish state promised to crack down on the crime gangs she reported on and, briefly, went after the assets of those gangsters who amassed fortunes from their criminal empires.

Will the killing of yet another reporter, albeit in such a random fashion, prompt the Republic's politicians to tackle yet another aspect of crime - one which not only takes the life of such a larger-than-life figure as Eugene Moloney, but also a phenomenon that threatens to destroy Dublin's reputation as a safe, welcoming city?

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