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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Listowel, No room at the inn for rape victim at Christmastime.

It’s like something from a John B Keane play. Locals have made up their own minds on justice regardless of the facts. For years the Irish psyche has had a sneaking regard for the man who was found guilty but had done nothing wrong in the eyes of the community. Justice was never owned by the Irish people but was historically seen as the outsider’s way of keeping locals, whose values weren’t considered in law under control. The man who didn’t recognise the court, the what ever you say, say nothing brigade or the wild colonial boy (another son of the kingdom) all dealt harshly by the system. Guilty by law but deep in the mindset of some Irish people falling into the category of you don’t know the other side of it.
So when 50 Listowel people (mostly men) trooped up to Tralee court to express their support for a local bouncer who had been convicted of sexually assaulting a young girl in 2008, they perhaps felt they were doing nothing other than showing support for one of their own, the curate and the bouncer standing beside one another at a time of mutual crisis in church and state. The Listowel lads took their case to the airwaves this week in his defence forcing his victim to defend herself in the media, an ordeal which must have been extraordinary difficult and stressful. It’s one thing to give evidence in court, another to repeat it in front of the media knowing that your last word will be relayed to the nation immediately.

Except this time there cannot be any more contextualising a crime as serious as rape.
The man convicted was at the time of the offence responsible for order in a licensed night club. He should have been registered for this job as person of good character by the Private Security Authority. His supporters and his fiancée challenge that he committed rape despite CCTV footage of the rapist carrying his victim towards a secluded area where he raped her. Evidence was given by gardaí, doctors and the victim herself. The judge rebutted the remarks made about the victim by her attacker in court. The man was convicted by a jury of his peers in a republic of which both victim and attacker are citizens. Laws aren’t made abroad and each citizen elects their legislator. We know that the DPP tell us that prosecution in rape cases often doesn’t take place because of lack of corroborating evidence or the reliability of witnesses, or time lags. These weren’t an issue in this case and the DPP succeeded in jailing a violent man. I hope that the Kerry Rape Crisis Centre, which does important work supporting victims in the county, continues to receive funding from the state.

So what has happened to our society that the victim won’t be served in a shop or that the local community is turning on a vulnerable 22 year old woman? There is no time in the year where a sense of belonging is more stronger than Christmas. Ironic is it not that it is precisely now a young woman feels so cut off from her community? I would have thought that we could have moved forward a little in 2 millennia but obviously I’m wrong.

Happy Christmas to you!


Catherine said...

My first thought was that John B couldn't have made this one up - life imitating art and truth stranger than fiction comes to mind. What a dreadful situation but it could be any small town in Ireland - as witness the previous sex assault case in the 1990s by a Sheehy guy in that neck of the woods where character witnesses came forth from local community pillars. There are a few fast growing support groups on Facebook for the victim, which are generating interesting debate. It is a scandalous case. The bishop of kerry needed a priest like that guy like a hole in the head right now - what an idiot he was to align himself with all the others queuing up to offer sympathy to the perp. And to insult the justice system and the jury like that - as if it was a miscarriage of justice. Not too far from me a paedophile on release from a stretch in prison was feted in a local pub by some morons backslapping him and buying him drinks and telling him how great it was to see him home again. So it ain't just Listowel - could be anywhere there's a tribalism to circle the wagons - listen to that wonderful radio documentary (archived on Radio One as a podcast) on the Anne Lovett case - Loralei Harris did it back in the 80s or 90s and it is powerfully damning of closed communities blaming victims as authors of their own misfortune. Makes me so mad - my Dutch daughter-in-law-to-be cannot believe what Irish society is like in cases like this. Good to see such outrage now from so many "normal" people.

Annie said...

Glad to see some sticking up for the victim. Hasn't Ireland learned from the Catholic priest sex scandals that people will not tolerate sex abuse. Those people supporting the convicted should walk a mile in the shoes of the victim. If the victim had been a sister or girlfriend of one of the supporters would they still be so supportive. Shame on all of them. The supporters should have their names publicly published as rape supporters.

posterman said...

As a tourist from Australia I visit Kerry every year, I shall be leaving Listowel off the towns we visit. I hope the shops that shun this poor woman go broke. Bycott them now!!
Sydney Australia

Jigsey said...

I was visiting Listowel area, for potential Holiday destination for Disadvantage children from England. We would found it safer going to Baghdad. What an awful community to do that

boundlesslife said...

Spare us your “English moral superiority” and your indication that Irish people should feel ashamed of themselves because of one incident.
His friends have a right to support him just like any part of the world, isn’t that what happens when someone is accused of a crime in England friends of the accused turn out support him? Obviously lots of people thought he was of good character.

You are extremely offensive telling us Kerry is less safe for women than Bagdad. If you are English you should know that gang rape by men of Iraqi and Pakistani origin is extremely widespread in England Your own liberal former Secretary of State claimed that many Muslim men treat young white girls under 16 as “easy meat” for Muslim rapists those were his words, in many Muslim countries women are stoned when they are raped or at least found guilty and jailed. You are offensive in the extreme towards Irish people.

You must have a very low opinion of Ireland if it was changed by one incident, and you were hardly going to come here and wouldn’t be welcome anyway.