Ten people dead, five adults and five children, dead by fire, dead in the most awful and gruesome way. A human tragedy and one on a very large scale in a country as small as this. Ten Irish people dead. Five Irish children. Yet, directly afterwards, with those ten people not even in their graves other Irish people pull their cars out of their drives and block entrance to a field in order to prevent family members of those dead people having somewhere to live. I think, I really think, there is something wrong with us.
Ten people dead. Ten Irish people. Five children. Five innocent, blameless children, including a five month old baby still living a life in its parent’s arms. Yet, as late as 2010, an opinion poll suggested that one in five of us would deny citizenship to these people. And now, even in the raw days after those deaths, up to 75% of those polled by the Irish Times believe objecting to those surviving family members having somewhere to live is the right thing to do. Really, I think there must be something wrong with us.
Ten people, five adults and five children. Five kids used to running around and playing and squabbling and skipping and jumping and seeing things for the very first time. Dead by fire. Gone. And offering a home to their bereaved family members is a step too far for us. We object to it. Really, is there not something wrong with us?
Ten people dead, five adults and five children. Dead by fire. Ten Irish people dead in Ireland. Yet, somehow, this is different and we are sorry, for sure, we are sorry but their grieving Irish families cannot be housed since their homes burnt down because we object. We object because these Irish people are Irish Travellers and ten people dead, five adults and five children, is ten Travellers dead, five Traveller adults and five Traveller children. Even the dead we have a problem with. I think, I really think, there must be something wrong with us.
Ten people dead, five adults and five children. Perhaps those residents in Carrickmines, let’s be fair to them in a way even the dead have been denied, have legitimate concerns. Traveller halting sites have a bad reputation and maybe they are right not to want one on their road. Maybe the council have completely mishandled this and maybe there are more appropriate sites in which to house these grieving, bereft people. But would you do it? Would you, even if you had serious misgivings, protest against the rehousing of bereaved people? People who had lost ten relatives, five adults and five children. Really, is there not something wrong with us?
The Catholic Church doesn’t have a great reputation in my mind because I have seen in plain black and white what its members did and what that Church did to cover that up. I wouldn’t deny a grieving Catholic priest though. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail don’t have a great reputation in my mind because I have seen close up over the last sixteen years their hypocrisy and their craven conservatism. I wouldn’t deny a grieving Fianna Failer though; I wouldn’t deny a grieving Fine Gaeler. All of those Celtic Tiger Me Feiners don’t have a great reputation in my mind because I saw for too many years their venality and their greed and their sense of superiority. I wouldn’t deny a grieving Me Feiner though. Drunk, prone to violence and making a mess of the place is what my mind sometimes hears when I hear the news about what any number of Irish people have been up to in any number of Irish towns on any number of Irish weekends.
But I wouldn’t deny my grieving fellow, drunk, prone to violence, messy citizens. If I did, if I did deny any of those people, I’d think there was something wrong with me.
Ten people dead, five adults and five children. Dead in the most terrifying, appalling circumstances. Five innocent children, children who should be in school today or skipping along or giving cheek or kicking a ball or throwing a stone or chasing a dog or lying in mum’s arms or climbing a roof or laughing at nothing or imagining everything or running in from the Irish rain or watching rubbish on the television or daft videos on YouTube or shooting aliens in a box or dancing in the sun. Dead. And we object. Isn’t there something wrong with us?