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Friday 22 September 2017

Gerry O'Carroll: No justice for the victims of violent Ireland

I had the pleasure of meeting father and daughter Terry and Sinead Delaney when we appeared together on The Late Late Show. Under normal circumstances, they would be just another ordinary family, yet the horrific shooting of their son and brother Robert has forced them to step into the limelight to appeal for justice.

I have been amazed by the depth of their dignity and courage and I know the rest of the country feels the same, judging by the number of messages of support and encouragement that came flooding in the RTE studios after Friday's show.

On October 22, 2008, 27-year-old Robert was shot in the face as he looked out the window of his apartment in Tallaght.

He lived there with his partner and two young daughters.

As a result of the shooting, Robert was left in a permanent vegetative state. The vicious attack is believed to have arisen from a fairly minor incident which occurred some time earlier in Saggart.

Robert had intervened in a row in which a number of punches were thrown. However, no serious injury was inflicted other than the odd bloody nose or black eye. Certainly nothing occurred that night that should have had such tragic consequences for Robert.

Officers investigating the crime believe that Robert placed himself in deadly peril as that seemingly petty squabble involved men with IRA associations.

Revenge came swiftly and mercilessly. Robert was in his home when a number of men drove up to the house. Upon hearing the commotion, he looked out the window and was shot in the head at close quarters. He suffered horrific injuries and is now totally incapacitated with catastrophic brain damage. This innocent man has been condemned to a twilight world, hovering between life and death and unable to recognise anybody.

In many respects, the attack mirrors the shooting of Paul Quinn in Monaghan.

In October 2007, following an altercation with family members of an IRA man, he was lured to his death in a hay shed and brutally murdered.

Before that, we had the infamous case of Robert McCartney in Belfast. He got into a row with leading members of the republican movement and was callously cut down in a pub.

Each of these three men had the misfortune to become embroiled in conflict with dangerous republicans.

Sympathy

In the past, these relatively minor altercations would never have ended in murder and maimings. Sadly, the reality is that we have become a violent society where gratuitous violence and lethal attacks have become common place.

Nothing better illustrates the extent of this descent into violence than the case of David Curran who was last week convicted of the murder of two men.

He savagely stabbed Mariusz Szwajkos and Pawel Kalite to death, purely because of a trivial incident that had unfolded minutes earlier.

For the families left behind, the grief is immeasurable. And for the Delaney family, they have the added horror of knowing that their son will never have any quality of life in his current existence.

I express my admiration and deepest sympathy to them. I believe they need closure and I think everyone in this country would love to see them securing justice for their beloved Robert.

I hope and pray that the callous cowards who crippled their darling son will soon be brought to book for this appalling crime.

Now I want to see the 'real' Bertie unmasked

SO now we know what he was thinking about during his 11 years in office. He might have been a workaholic, but former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern never took his eye off the ball when it came to keeping up with sporting matters.

In a fascinating insight into this enigmatic character, his official appointments diary for his last five years as Taoiseach has been released.

For a start, it confirms what most of us already know, that Bertie is a genuinely devout practising Catholic and a workaholic. We also know that he's a fanatical Dubs supporter, loves Gaelic football and follows Manchester United. And every crunch match was carefully noted in his diary to ensure he never missed out.

From my days as an inspector in Store Street station, I know that Bertie ran his drivers and security men ragged by working 15 and 16-hour days. He had the energy of a man half his age.

Hypocrisy

I was particularly drawn to one diary entry which noted Bertie's appointment to receive the Knight Grand Cross of Merit with Gold Star from Cardinal Pompedda. Without making any moral judgment, I was gobsmacked to think of the hypocrisy with which the Church bestowed an ecclesiastical honour on a separated man who was openly living with another woman.

Nonetheless, I'm sure Bertie was delighted. He is, after all, an extremely vain man who would not make a public appearance without a make-up session with one of his personal groomers.

You might say that those expensive cosmetics were a mask. Bertie carefully cultivated his image as the ordinary guy next door, the sport fanatic who liked a quiet pint of Bass in Fagans.

I believe this to be a front. The real Bertie is known only to a tiny coterie of friends. He is a fascinating character, a Machiavellian type who wouldn't let his right hand know what his left is doing.

Maybe some day a biographer will get the true measure of him. His diaries might teach us something, but they still don't scrape through to the core of this mystery man. I believe Charlie Haughey said it best when he described Bertie as "the most skilful, the most devious, the most cunning of them all".

The lovely Kathryn should be a shoo-in for new presenting role

I'm not normally one for rumours, but I won't deny that I'm fervently praying that the latest whispers about Kathryn Thomas are true.

If what I've heard is to be believed, the lovely Ms Thomas could soon be the new face of RTE's mid-afternoon programming.

I feared the worst when it was announced that the award-winning No Frontiers was to be discontinued, but it looks like the talented Carlow lass has already been earmarked for a new position as the presenter of a new RTE lifestyle show.

Kathryn has already proven herself to be extremely adaptable on Winning Streak, which she presents with the ever-reliable Marty Whelan. But now I think there's a new spot waiting for this class act.

With her easy-going manner, professionalism and her genuine interest in people, Kathryn should be a shoo-in for the job.

She gets my vote, anyway.

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