Fear grips courts where killers learned trade
THE normal business of Tallaght District Court continued this week -- but the tragic murder of teenager Melanie McCarthy McNamara threw a long shadow over its work.
Gangs usually don't let their feuds spill over into Tallaght courthouse, but there are fears that Melanie's brutal killing could spark "all-out war".
"When the killers pulled the trigger and shot a young girl, a couple of things changed," said one community volunteer.
"She was so young, an innocent. There's a lot of anger towards the killers, even amongst gang members. It's like by killing Melanie they've gone too far. The fear is that someone will do something stupid in return."
The leading suspects in the killing of the tragic teen are in their late teens and early 20s, and both have been before the courts on many occasions.
Although a suburb of Dublin, Tallaght is more like small-town Ireland, with its tight-knit community full of hard-working, decent people.
Some of the people know who Melanie's killers are.
The older suspect is a drug addict who started using heroin and crack cocaine in his early teens. He has a long list of previous convictions and spent his teenage years in and out of St Patrick's Institution.
The second suspect also has drug convictions.
"They're on the run," said one local source, "It wouldn't surprise me if they've fled the country. They are not people I would want to cross."
Another added: "It's very sad what happened to that young girl. Working here in Tallaght, you can see that people are on a knife-edge. They are scared about reprisals and what's going to happen next."
The 'ordinary decent criminals' who come before Tallaght District Court every day tell stories of poverty, of hardship, of drug addiction.
Many of the offences are petty crimes, such as shoplifting and drink-related public order matters. They, too, are shocked at Melanie's death. "You know, love, there's rules around here. And one of them is you don't go near a child," said one defendant to the Herald.
"But it's difficult, we're all just struggling to survive, we've all got money worries."
Another defendant added: "It's shocking. There's a few thugs in Tallaght and they're giving the place a bad name. I keep well away from them. They'd box you for no reason."
Yet another remarked: "Them drugs, they ruin families."
"You have to remember, many of those before Tallaght court come from difficult backgrounds," said another local.
"Often their father or mother had a drink or drug problem, they didn't go to school, there was no guidance. They got into drink or drugs at an early age, and the problems escalated from there.
"From what I heard about the suspects, they became involved in drugs at a young age, and then got caught in a vicious circle of drugs, debts and gangland feuds."
Many who appear at Tallaght court have also suffered violence, or threats of violence, and they are often armed to protect themselves.
In one recent case, the court heard of a man who armed himself with a slash hook and hatchet after he was shot at. In a separate case, a 19-year-old was caught on the way to a pub with a knuckleduster, in yet another case, a 20-year-old had a shotgun.
"You become immune to it after a while when you're in court all the time," said another local source.
"Beatings, assaults, people carrying shotguns, knives, dealing drugs. For some people coming before Tallaght court, that's normal life. You can easily forget that these crimes have consequences, people get hurt, people get killed."
However, all those at Tallaght courthouse were in agreement about one thing -- when the killers are charged, don't bring them before Tallaght court.
"Are you having a laugh? Bring them to the CCJ. There could be war if they're brought before Tallaght."