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!