Community must hold onto each other to heal

The lakeside village of Oughterard is facing a human tragedy this week. The death of local publican John Kenny has understandably hit the town of some 1,500 people hard - a peaceful village traditionally associated with fishing and tourism.

Like many small villages it has dealt with losses over the past few years - the economic recession has taken several bites with a host of businesses suffering. Yet until Sunday evening residents would say there was a growing feel-good factor - visits like that of President Mary McAleese last year had given the village a fillip and more recently the town had dressed itself in green to celebrate the arrival of Paul Gogerty and Celebrity Bainisteor.

But nothing compares to the tragedy that occurred on Sunday, the loss of life - a citizen, a local, born and bred in the town, who was going about his business with his usual quietness and integrity.

Now the town is reeling from this murder, is in mourning for Mr Kenny, and is trying to come to terms with this inexplicable loss.

It has shocked a community that believed it was possible to walk the streets and go about one's business late at night without fear - a tight-knit community which like many Irish villages of its type is friendly - where having a pint at the pub, meeting on the sidelines of a local GAA pitch, or watching over children in the local playground is an opportunity to meet and chat about the day's events.

Now it is visibly shaken and disbelieving, and it will take some time to recover. What only happens on television has struck home for this community and the question is still being asked: How could this have happened?

Some answers may come out in court when the criminal/s are caught, but it is important in the meantime the community looks to itself to support John Kenny's family and its residents.

It is said that murder is one of the most difficult types of death to cope with - a death that is sudden, leaving families and communities shattered. John Kenny's untimely death came on the same day the United States held its fifth national day of remembrance for murder victims - a day to honour and memorialise the lives of loved ones taken by homicide. Fr Jimmy Walsh of Oughterard also believes it might be possible in time to organise a ritual or event for the community - one small step, but a positive one, to help the community heal. In the meantime, he says, it is important to hold the Kenny family in our prayers and our thoughts, and for the community to hold onto each other.

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