Last year was one to forget in terms of crime in the city. In the Spring, we had to listen to the harrowing details of how Manuela Riedo met her end. In the midst of the Volvo Ocean race, we had the killing of young Kieran Cunningham on a night out with his pals. As I write this, another young man fights for his life in a Dublin hospital after being assaulted in the city at the end of the year.
So we could be forgiven for hoping that the New Year would bring a welcome respite from the sort of headlines not normally associated with this city. How wrong could we have been? Just half an hour into the New Year when the city was revelling, as the decade came to an end and another began, the ugly side of Galway came to the fore once again.
As the strains of Auld Lang Syne were heard across the city, and strangers hugged and drink was downed, one of our most vulnerable citizens was enduring the most horrific night of her life. An 80-year-old woman who lived alone in Shantalla Road, enjoying the sort of independent life that we hope all our octogenarians would have, was attacked in her own home by a man who was six-feet tall. It was not a fair match and for an hour he subjected her to the most horrifying attack, beyond her wildest comprehension. Then he fled the scene on foot.
This was not a panic crime, a thief disturbed. The duration of this and the timing and calmness in which it was carried out suggests a very disturbed individual is at large in the city and needs to be apprehended. The exact details of the assualt are not being released for operational reasons, but if they were, then the revulsion at this attack would be all the more extreme.
The weather of the last few weeks has ben very restrictive for the able-bodied and even more so for the elderly and the infirm. The hospital has dealt with nearly 200 fractures suffered by people who slipped on the ice. And they are the lucky ones. Beaumont Hospital is dealing with many others who fell and suffered serious head injuries.
The natural elements are making life hard enough for the elderly and the lonely without criminals taking advantage of their isolation and vulnerability.
Unfortunately, it is not just the victim who suffered in this crime, even though her ordeal is incomprehensible. For all the other elderly who live in the city and for the rest of us who hope to be elderly one day, it is the dashing of hope that common decency would prevent such crimes happening in our midst. We should be ashamed that it has and this is why it is incumbent on the rest of us to look in on our vulnerable neighbours during this spell. Make sure they have heat, food and some form of communication that they can use in the event of an emergency.
The Riedo trial showed us that there are people on the streets who should not have been. Recent court coverage also tells us that there are many more out there who are a serious threat to legality in this city. We can help the gardai catch the bastard who did this by recalling where we were and what we saw and telling them if any of this information is relevant. It was New Year’s Eve so recollection should not be that difficult. I have no doubt that he will be caught. How soon that happens depends on us.