Being a native of the ‘Top of Town’ area, I’d consider myself fairly in tune with its uniquely satirical psyche and attitude. People in that locality know one another, they know your stock and they watch out for you.
And they stick together, which is why – as a community – they’re so utterly revolted at the death of Paddy Barry following a burglary at his home last week. So many of my family and friends live in that area and, over the past couple of days, Paddy’s attack and sad demise is really the only topic of conversation on everyone’s lips.
So many people said to me that they’d love ten minutes on their own in a locked room with the perpetrators of that burglary. I know how they feel. If something like that had happened to my own grandmother (may she rest in peace), who lived on her own in the Top of the Town area for many years, I don’t think I would be able to see beyond a white rage.
In the days after the attack at Paddy Barry’s home, something else has happened within that community. A ghastly combination of shock and fear has taken hold, particularly amongst elderly people living alone (of which there are quite a few in that neighbourhood). After news emerged on Tuesday morning that Paddy had passed away, I spoke to several elderly people who said they were now terrified in their own homes and were barricading themselves in at night. If they hear any noise outside, they’re petrified to go outside for fear that an attack is imminent.
What kind of country are we living in that our elderly people, the people who built up this State, are living in fear under their own roofs? Equally disturbing is public perception that even if the perpetrators of such burglaries and attacks at the homes of pensioners are apprehended, they’ll be back on the streets in no time because the prisons are overcrowded. I can’t imagine how frustrating the situation is for the gardai.
Seeing as you’ll have already garnered my own personal disgust, I should perhaps mention that I’m not writing the following as a journalist. I’m just another revolted Waterford person with perhaps a louder voice than others who says ENOUGH. Our excuse for a Government needs to stop pussy-footing around the criminals and change our legislation to give us the right to protect ourselves in our own homes without worrying about legal repercussions. I genuinely don’t care how biased I may come across as – if a would-be burglar feels they are entitled to enter someone’s home, then be it on their heads.
In recent days Paddy’s grandson, well-known magician Keith, put his years of experience with the media to excellent use in what must have been such a harrowing time when he demanded that Justice Minster Dermot Ahern introduce emergency legislation to protect homeowners against intruders. I listened to Keith and his dad Ken on the Marian Finucane show on RTE’s Radio 1 last Saturday and was utterly aghast to hear them describe the condition the elderly man was left in. And to think that the attack occurred the day before the government rejected a Fine Gael proposal to strengthen the law to allow people use ‘reasonable force’ to protect their homes against intruders.
People have said it’s not that simple, that there are legal factors at play here and it’s not as straightforward as putting a line of Tippex through the law as it stands and rewriting it. Well as far as I’m concerned it bloody-well is. If the Government can push a levy on the public’s wages through in a week or two, they can surely do likewise with this kind of legislation.
What has happened to Paddy Barry is shocking. But what will be even more shocking is if the people of Waterford sit back, shake their heads and then get on with life as if nothing has happened. We need to get on the streets and make our voices heard, we need to badger the bejaysus out of any public representative we can get our hands on and we need to keep a close eye on the more vulnerable people in our neighbourhoods.
Prior to his grandfather’s death, Keith Barry mentioned to the media that he intended organising a national day of protest in support of emergency legislation to protect people in their own homes. Right now the Barry family needs to be left to mourn a father, father-in-law, granddad, friend. But when the dust settles, and if Keith and his family feel so inclined, the people of Waterford should show him what they’re made of and stand up for the memory of Paddy Barry.