Share the darkness with those feeling fear in their homes

Ta an dorachadas ag teacht anuas

Tar abhaile liom a gra

The darkness is coming down

Come home with me, my love

Nighttime is a different country. While the sentiment expressed above in the lines from The SawDoctors' Share The Darkness portrays it as an ally in seduction, in reality, nighttime in reality brings terror to tens of thousands of vulnerable people living in isolated parts of the country this January.

Every so often when late at night, I might be shuffling around the blackness of the rural area in which I live, the image comes to me of Padraig Nally, sitting in the darkness of his farm near Cross, night after night, nursing his shotgun, shrouded with fear in the months and years before the shooting which brought him to national and international attention. Whatever the merits of that tragic case, the scene is replicated all over the country in these dying months of winter, when the natural cover of darkness is an ally to gangs of thieving thugs, traversing the country using the roads that Europe built, to make their way into the boreens of the heartland where live thousands and thousands of isolated people, vulnerable to the threat of violent robbery and assault.

These people sit in their beds and in their chairs, praying for the dawn to give them a protective shield of light. They sit in the knowledge that they no longer possess the physical attributes to fight back against these assailants but it does not dampen their determination to battle for what they have, and in doing so, they are endangering themselves gravely. It is little comfort to them to know that even able- bodied people would struggle to match the nocturnal sudden burst of psychotic violence that has seen gangs of young men viciously attack old women, punching and kicking them, and lashing old men with sticks. No sense of repulsion in their souls as they go about breaking into houses to get the cash and jewellery which they believe exists in hordes in a country which no longer trusts the banks.

Galway and Mayo are no strangers to violence against the lonely and elderly. It was this week 17 years ago when Tommy Casey died after he was attacked in his home near Oranmore. The Nally case merely reminded Mayo people of the threat of attacks that had seen several elderly men killed in their homes. The areas of Kilmaine and Charlestown still remember cases which saw three men murdered in their homes by violent thugs

The 78-year-old Donegal woman Phyllis Magee who has been robbed twice in a short while spoke on TV this week how she would like to see her assailants dead, shot in the roadway. A former mayor of this city said this week that if confronted with raiders in his home, he too would feel justified in shooting them. And many will agree with him. The current mayor spoke of how even bereaved families are being targeted by thieves listening to and reading death notices and knowing when homes will be empty and unprotected.

We live in a world where social media participants delight in telling the world when they are not at home, and even if they do not, their smartphones will do it for them.

And so thieves are seeing more and more opportunities. Fast roads, technical assistance, absence of garda patrols, mistrust of banks which seem to be doing more and more to make day to day banking more difficult and less discreet for elderly customers.

So what can be done? The u-turn on the alarm grant for the elderly is to be welcomed. At times like this we need to identify the vulnerable in our areas and ensure they are safe and have systems like the pendants that can aid the cry for help.

Most of all we need to provide reassurance that nobody is truly alone. Everybody has the right to know that someone somewhere cares. Make sure in your area that you are that someone.

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