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Tag: Dublin (Page 4 of 8)

Is the Grass Always Greener?

Eamonn Lillis was quite definite when he told gardai he had not had an affair.  After his arrest, six days after his wife’s death on December 15th 2008, he was woken in his brother-in-laws house and arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife, Celine Cawley.

In a series of interviews that Sunday he refused to comment when he was asked about his relationship with his wife.  He agreed they had slept in different bedrooms as a rule but this was down to her heavy snoring and thrashing about in the bed.

He was quite definite that he had not been having an affair in the ten weeks leading up to his wife’s death.  He had known Jean Treacy only as the woman who gave him his weekly massage, he told them.  Celine went to her as well.

The gardai told him they had been speaking to Jean and she told a different story.  A story in which an advance was made over a massage and a kiss was snatched in the salon where she worked.  They suggested regular weekly meetings on a Monday when she wasn’t working, three visits to his home.

At first Mr Lillis was determined in his denial but as the details stacked up he admitted the affair.  A mid life crisis, he called it.  He had been infatuated but wasn’t a jealous man.  He said he had known she was due to marry the following year and it didn’t bother him.

He told them he had worked out a “resolution list” with his mistress and then discussed the list with his wife over a bottle of wine.  The list covered things he was unhappy about in his life, the man he wanted to be, what he wanted to change.  The talk was very therapeutic, he said, it helped the marriage.

He denied that Celine had found out about his affair on the day that she died although he agreed he was due to meet Jean in their regular Monday meeting.  He couldn’t do that to his wife, he said.  He didn’t have it in him.

He refused to comment when gardai suggested that his wife’s death had been a terrible accident, that he had just snapped under intolerable strain.  He couldn’t do something like that to Celine he said.  He wanted to speak to his solicitor.

He also told gardai that he had changed his clothes after picking up an Irish Times in a local newsagents.  He had been going to take the dogs for a walk so had changed into combats and walking boots.  He had put the jeans he was wearing in the wash room and changed his dark top and black boots with white trim.

The jury was shown the contents of a black bin liner, found in a small suitcase under some cameras and lenses.  The suitcase had been submerged under boxes of children’s toys, dolls and children’s books.  In the bin liner were a pair of jeans and a black V neck sweater, a pair of white socks and a pair of boxers.  All the clothing was bloodstained.  As was a dish cloth, a pair of men’s outdoor gloves, a pair of rubber gloves and several wads of kitchen roll.  The bag also contained an empty sauce bottle and a yoghurt pot.

The jury were also shown a bloodstained grey polo shirt found in the upstairs bedroom used by Mr Lillis and a pair of black boots with white trim with blood stains on the soles.

We now have a very good idea of the layout of the house in Howth where this story played out.  This morning the prosecution played a video tour of the house filmed by gardai.  The camera swung slowly round the property showing a home in the run up to Christmas.  Gold tinsel was draped over every picture and the Christmas tree made another appearance.

Breakfast things were abandoned on the counter in the kitchen and beds were dishevelled.  The house had an empty, deserted look, made more acute by the inscrutable eye that looked on it in the aftermath of a forensic investigation.

The camera lingered over the soft toys in a bedroom, clutter on a bathroom shelf, an ornamental cow with daisy spots across it’s back in the garden.  All the trapping of lives lived before events that would change them forever.  A Marie Celeste moment before tragedy struck at the start of an ordinary week just before Christmas.

A Phantom Intruder

Eamonn Lillis told gardai and emergency services that he and his wife had been attacked by a masked man, the morning that she died.  Yesterday we heard that he admitted this intruder was a lie and that he was the only one present when his wife, Celine Cawley, suffered the injuries that lead to her death.

Today we heard the details of this lie in statements he had made to gardai in the hours and days following her death.  Over several statements he described a man around 5’11” like himself but wiry and strong.  He described the mythical burglar as wearing a dark grey bomber-type jacket, with darker sleeves, blue jeans and nylon looking gloves.  On his back was a rucksack and he was wearing a black balaclava or ski mask with a contrasting white line on it.

Mr Lillis said this man had been crouched over his wife when he returned home from taking their three dogs for a walk.  He said the intruder was holding a brick and crouched over a prone Celine on the decking outside the kitchen.  Painting himself as the hero of the piece, Mr Lillis said he had gone out to her roaring and fought with the attacker but slipped on the icy deck, allowing the masked intruder to make his escape.

Mr Lillis told gardai that they should make whatever investigations were necessary to catch the phantom and said that he just wanted the guy caught.  He repeated this wish when he rang gardai asking when he could return to his house, only to be told that garda forensics were still examining the scene.

Mr Lillis had also suggested that he knew who the mysterious intruder was.  He told gardai that his family had been burgled before and had suspicions then as to who the culprit was.  They had put a high fence around the large detached house after that.  Although the house was still visible from the public laneway that ran beside the house in Howth.

He told gardai his wife would have confronted any intruder. She was a fighter, he said, a tough nut.

The jury were also shown photographs of the injuries Mr Lillis had to his face and hands when the emergency services arrived.  His face was scratched and bruised and the nail on his wedding ring finger torn off.  The little finger on his right hand was bruised and bloody, as if, suggested defence counsel Brendan Grehan, it had been bitten.

The jury, judge and counsel saw the photographs but not the rest of us.  The lovely large screens that had been showing us the location photographs in an unexpectedly inclusive gesture yesterday, were black today and so any viewing had to be through craning necks and wriggling in seats.

It was a quiet enough day of evidence today.  This happens all the time in trials.  The stand out witnesses that make the story to be told after the verdict can end up all in one day with the remainder of the trial being repetitive procedural witnesses like most of today.  We’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow.

Concessions and Lies

Eamonn Lillis told gardai and the emergency services that both he and his wife, Celine Cawley, had been attacked by a masked attacker in their Howth home.  He said that this balaclava’d and gloved man had hit his wife over the head with a brick and then turned on him.

This morning, after prosecution counsel Mary Ellen Ring had finished her opening speech, Mr Lillis’s counsel, Brendan Grehan stood up to make a number of concessions.  It’s normal enough to hear that the defence aren’t going to argue over the conditions of their client’s arrest or the way the scene what preserved and the evidence gathered, the technicalities of the investigation of a serious crime.  In total Mr Grehan made eight concessions that there had been no hiccups in how the gardai did their job.  Then he came to the ninth admission.

Mr Lillis, he said, admitted lying to gardai and emergency services about the circumstances in which his wife had suffered the injuries that led to her death.  There had been no burglary, no intruder, no one apart from him in the house when she was injured.

According to the prosecution’s opening speech, the post mortem evidence will show that Celine Cawley died from a combination of factors, three blows to the head with a blunt object and more mundane complications after a fall when the now obese former model had been unable to breath after falling unconscious on her front.

We were also told, in the prosecution’s opening argument, that Mr Lillis had been having an affair in the months before his wife’s death.  Gardai had discovered a significant amount of phone traffic from phones belonging to Mr Lillis to phones belonging to a woman called Jean Treacy.

Ms Treacy is sure to be a major witness, as we have been told that she will also tell the court about the account Mr Lillis gave her about his wife’s death…a fight that turned physical, an icy deck and a fatal slip.  But so far all we’ve heard is the outline of the prosecution case, the evidence will come later.

The new courthouse, which will be officially opened by the President of Ireland at the weekend, is hosting it’s first murder trial.  As proceedings got underway today there were some noticeable teething troubles.  Soon after the jury had taken their seats there was a loud alarm and a disembodied voice began to announce an evacuation but was quickly cut of in mid sentence.  But despite the technical gripes there are certain new high tech whizz bangs that certainly add to the experience of the initial rather dry evidence.

The first couple of witnesses in a criminal trial are almost always maps and photographs.  Before the trial goes any further the jury are provided with maps of the area in question and photographs of places or objects that are going to be referred to by subsequent witnesses.  Normally if you’re sitting in the body of the court this evidence is rather dull.  They don’t hand out maps to the whole courtroom and it’s the same with the photos so unless you’ve got extremely good eyesight there’s a lot of talking about things you can’t see.

Now though, the maps and photographs appear on large screens behind the judge.  We can all see the high hedge that surrounds the house on Windgate Road in Howth.  The trappings of a privileged life of the occupants are visible to all; the large garden, stables, hot tub.  We can also all see the bright red stain that covers part of the decking outside the kitchen,

Crime scene photos are always uncomfortable windows on a tragedy, the flotsam and jetsam of normal lives mixed in with the detritus left by the emergency services.  On the kitchen table a portable oxygen mask sits beside a black woman’s handbag and the Irish Times.  The sad remnants of a Christmas cut short are visible in each picture, tinsel draped over pictures, a Christmas tree standing forlornly in the corner of the living room. 

In an upstairs bedroom the gloved hand of one of the garda forensics team holds a grey top.  A bedside table home to a scatter of change, a Lotto ticket and a watch that we are later shown has traces of blood and tissue on it.

In her opening speech, Mary Ellen Ring told us that Mr Lillis had called the emergency services shortly after 10 o’clock on the morning of December 15th 2008.  After lunch we heard a recording of that call.  Mr Lillis’s voice rang across the courtroom, sounding strangely high pitched and almost hysterical.  We listened as he was led through the CPR procedure by the emergency phone operator from Dublin Fire Brigade.  He could be heard breathing raggedly and deeply as he listened to the instructions, his voice rising even higher as his actions failed to get a response.

We also head from members of the fire brigade and gardai who responded to Mr Lillis’s frantic call.  Garda Colum Murray described arriving first on the scene and being greeted by a Mr Lillis who was “very unsteady on his feet” and “not making much sense”.  Mr Lillis also had visible injuries, scratches to his right cheek and two bruises on his left cheek and forehead that looked as if they had been made by a heavy object.

Barbara Cahill, from Kilbarrack Fire Station also arrived at the scene that morning.  She told the court how she had needed to salt the slippery decking after one of her colleagues slipped and fell on the icy surface.

The trial will continue tomorrow and the story will develop.

The First Trial of the Year

The snows are finally melting and the Christmas decorations are down.  The new court term got underway today under leaden grey skies, in an ocean of slush.  From today on there will be no more Four Courts for criminal trials.  All the criminal courts are now officially moved to the grandly named Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street in Dublin, right next to the Phoenix Park.

For the press the new court term got off to a good start with a trial listed that will get editors pulses racing for the next couple of weeks.  The trial won’t start until tomorrow but this morning the jury was sworn for Eamonn Lillis.

Mr Lillis is accused of the murder of his wife Celine Cawley, Bond girl, model and the woman behind Toytown Films, one of Irelands largest advertising production houses. As the jury panel were warned of the Cawley family’s connections in advertising and as solicitors, the pens scratched away furiously, getting every detail of the brief proceedings.

Mr Lillis stood stiffly while the single charge was read out to him.  Dressed in a black coat, with a white shirt and sombre black tie, he tilted his chin up as he listened to the arraignment before answering quietly but firmly “Not guilty”.

The jury selection process was a departure from what we were all used to in the Four Courts.  Instead of the jury panel taking every available seat in the court room they were hidden from sight, in a special holding area.  Judge Paul Carney spoke to them via a TV link, explaining how the selection process would proceed and highlighting some of the basic facts of the case so that the jurors could excuse themselves if they knew anyone involved.

The names of twenty or so of the panel were read out and after a short pause they appeared clustered at the back of the jury box.  They were then called one by one to take their oath, giving the prosecution and defence an opportunity to object to anyone they chose.  Seven can be refused by either side, with no reason given.  After that reasons must be given but the number of refusals is unlimited…we seldom get to the reasons though.

The registrar read through the list of names and the selection started. Every now and then either side would raise an objection to a juror who would then melt back into the background, dismissed. As the judge says, there is no way of knowing why a juror is refused.  It could  be because they were wearing a tie, or because they weren’t.  Today, by accident or design, it seemed that the prosecution had a downer on young men of a more casual persuasion.  Anyone with long hair or a band t-shirt was swiftly dispatched and obvious students refused.

The defence on the other hand refused women.  A succession of middle aged women in comfortable clothes were sent packing while women in suits or obvious students took their seats.  Eventually six men and six women were left.  It’ll be up to them to decide guilt or innocence at the end of this trial.

Tomorrow the trial proper will start and we’ll discover which man or woman has been selected or volunteered as foreman.  Today it’s all down to the inconsequential minutiae, like the tuning up of an orchestra.  The new year has really begun.

The Closure of INN

Last night the passing of an Irish media institution was marked.  Independent Network News or INN had provided news bulletins for local stations around the country for the past twelve years.  It had formed in 1997 after the two Dublin stations, FM 104 and 98FM, who had previously provided the service banded together to provide a single service for the country.

It’s been the starting point of many a career, my own included, but at the beginning of the month it was announced that the service was to close with the loss of all jobs there.  Staff found out they were out of a job when they heard it on the national RTE lunchtime radio news.

Staff, backed by the journalists’ union, the NUJ, did what they could but last night the staff and colleagues from throughout the industry met to mark the closure.

Journalism can be a really shitty business sometimes.

That’s about all I can say on the subject.  I’m not going into the whys and wherefores here but my thoughts are with my friends and colleagues who lost their jobs yesterday.  It was a dark day for Irish media.

I’ll leave the last word to INN themselves.  The final bulletin, read by news editor Richie Cullen, which was broadcast at 12 midnight, last night October 30th 2009.

Lively Debate

Last night I went  to the inaugural Insight Debate at the National College of Ireland.  It’s not something I’d normally have gone to (my college days are long behind me and there never seems to be any time) but as the motion was “this house believes that the scales of justice are tilted towards the criminal” I made the effort.

Given the day job it was a subject that I’m more than familiar with and one that often comes up in the courts   – prolonged exposure to the court beat tends to send people either to the right or the left so discussions can get heated.  Even in the controlled circumstances of a formal debate structure like last night, things got heated.

The lecture theatre was packed and there were plenty of familiar faces dotted around.  I was live tweeting the debate, trying to get as many of the main points as I could but once the discussion was opened to the floor it was almost impossible to keep up.

This is a subject that will always get people’s blood up. Crime is something that affects everyone living in a society and we can’t avoid the latest escapades of a bewildering array of miscreants that seem to keep some red tops in business.   Now granted, for me, a substantial drop in the crime rate would be fairly disastrous for the bank balance but it’s impossible to sit through trial after trial, especially at Circuit Court level, without forming some opinions about whether or not the criminal justice system works or not.

As I said, it’s a topic that comes up fairly frequently among my colleagues and I’ve often heard the opinion that working the court beat can actually make you sleep safer in your bed.  It really is a case of the devil you know.  You realise that the gardai, for the most part, do their jobs well and there are a lot less miscarriages of justice than you might previously have thought.  Even though I’ve written here about some of the more peculiar decisions that are made in the courts, the reason I comment on them is because they are peculiar.

More often than not once you’ve sat through the horrific details of some crime with the absolute certainty that the tattooed thug beside you did everything he was accused of and probably more, you have the satisfaction of seeing a conviction at the end of it.  Juries might be subject to certain flights of lunacy on occasion but for the vast majority of the time the bad guys go to jail and the innocent men walk free.  It doesn’t always work but it mostly does and it’s the safest system we have.  Having 12 random men and women who will not look on court proceeding with the jaundiced eyes that familiarity can breed, is a hell of a lot fairer for all concerned than any alternative I can think of.

It was fascinating to watch the debate and hear the comments that came from the floor.  Certain issues stood out through repitition and showed current preoccupations.  Rather unsurprisingly the subject of white collar crime was a recurring theme.  It seemed to be a general consensus that many in the audience, regardless of which side of the motion they came down on, would rather see the prisons full of bankers than many of the others who currently lodge there.  I could be wrong but I think that every speaker made a crack about John O’Donoghue’s ignominious departure from the post of Ceann Comhairle earlier this week.  I get the feeling though that jokes about expenses are going to be satirical currency for many months, if not years, to come.

The idea of treating those who end up in the criminal justice system through disadvantage and drug addiction with a degree of compassion is one you see a lot in the Circuit courts.  The idea that there are people who wouldn’t commit crimes if they could kick the drugs comes easily if you listen to sentencing after sentencing where the defence mitigation speech sounds the same.  Education for those in the lowest economic groups and access for treatment for those who become addicted to expensive drug habits with no way to support them, would appear to be a no brainer.

The idea that those involved in the criminal justice system need to be treated like human beings instead of numbers arose on both sides of the debate.  The more vulnerable amoung those accused of crimes deserve a way to get themselves out of the hole they are in and the system needs it’s checks and balances to ensure that those accused of a crime get a properly fair trial.  We’re back to the jury on this, and the presumption of innocence.

This presumption is the cornerstone of Irish justice.  It’s the way we do things here and it’s a far more dignified way to treat those in the dock.  Even the dock in Irish courts no longer exists so that the accused is not stigmatised by having a set place to sit.  OK so in practice they all sit in the same place, that seat formally known as the dock, but the principal is there.

The presumption of innocence seems to be the hardest part for those affected by crime to grasp.  Why should someone who you know has done you wrong, because you were there or because you know the facts of the case, get to be treated like an innocent man.

I know it can be difficult for victims families in a murder trial when the accused swans in through the Four Courts gates ahead of them each morning before the trial.  They find it galling to watch the defence successfully exclude reams of evidence that make up part of the complex case the gardai have painstakingly built.  I can’t comment on the wrongs and rights of the evidence and the bail but while a trial is ongoing all you can if you are there to see justice for your loved one, is trust that things will work out.  Most of the time they do.

It must be hard to watch someone you believe to be guilty treated with kid gloves but better that than an innocent man treated like the devil himself.

The flip side of this issue, which was returned to time and again by both the audience and the team proposing the motion, is that of victims rights.  Ger Philpott from Advocates for Victims of Homicide (AdVic), spoke movingly of his experiences of the justice system as he watched the trial of the men accused of the murder of his nephew Russell Deane.

I’ve seen mothers of those killed thrown out of the court for crying as the story of their child’s last moments is recounted to the court.  I know why their displays of emotion don’t play well with the defence but it’s always one of the most awkward bits of a trial when it happens.  Victims don’t really have a place in the prosecution of a case.  If they weren’t around for the events leading to their relation’s death they might not even be called as a witness. Often the only thing they can do is provide a victim impact statement at the very end, once a conviction has been secured.  I’ve seen some very nasty characters indeed milk their status as an innocent defendant as a blatant way of twisting the hearts of  their victims even more.

Crime by it’s very nature hurts those it happens to.  Those wounds run deep and the criminal justice system doesn’t always help the healing process – one of the points thrown up the the audience was that even data protection legislation conspires against victims of violent crime and their families.  Under these rules the gardai are forbidden from passing on their details to some of the support groups set up expressly to help them.

It was perhaps inevitable that the ayes would have it and the motion would pass.  Our justice system is a complex thing built over centuries, in need of modernisation and streamlining perhaps but for the moment it’s the one we have to work with.  When we read about the criminal gangs who maim, kill and wreak lives,  then terrify those who could be witnesses to send them away it’s hard not to feel that this world we live in is a dark one indeed.  We can be passionate about human rights and justice but if crime comes into your life it’s hard to keep that objectivity.  It was great to see the subject debated so thoroughly though.  It’s always good to challenge viewpoints and I’ll look forward to the next debate with interest.

I’m just playing around with some of the ideas thrown out last night here.  I’m not saying which side I voted for merely continuing the discussion.  Feel free to join in!

The Ramblings of a Pompous Ass!

So Joe O’Reilly has been corresponding with the media.  One can’t help but wonder what possessed him to enter into an exchange of letters with journalists from the Star Sunday.  Has he not learnt by now that his proclamations of innocence continue to fall on deaf ears because most people in his country are too familiar with the facts of his wife’s brutal murder; she was bludgeoned to death so thoroughly that her blood spattered the ceiling above her body.

Today’s Star Sunday contains O’Reilly’s thoughts on his conviction and his life in jail.  He comes across, not as an evil cold blooded killer but as a none too bright pompous snob who boasts about the book club he set up in the Midlands Prison and once again tries to talk his way out of murder in the way he has ever since his wife was killed.

During his 2007 trial it came out that O’Reilly was in the habit of blabbing to anyone who would listen.  He commented to a friend that the gardai were looking in the wrong place for the murder weapon, ran through a blow-by-blow (excuse the pun) account of the murder for his wife’s family and talked to half the journalists in town about how he was the number one suspect.

Despite the fact that these tactics quite spectacularly failed to keep him out of jail, it appears that he still uses them.  His dazzling critisism of the mobile phone evidence that placed him near the murder scene at the time was confused to say the least.

“I will leave you with these thoughts/questions. 1.  Ever had a dropped call?  2. Ever lose your signal?  Have you ever stretched your arm 800 yards down a hill, past a door, through two doors, turn left, down a hallway, left into a bedroom, kill someone then leave the way you came without being seen? No? Me either.  But I HAVE dropped a call and I have lost a signal…SO, hardly water-tight technology eh?”

Brilliant!  I’m sure the combined forces of the DPP and the Gardai are quaking in their boots at such brilliant point scoring!  This is a man who genuinely thinks that he will be able to convince the journalists he is writing to, and presumably the public, that he loved his wife and was dead against domestic violence.  He conveniently forgets that his mistress, Nikki Pelly has been a regular tabloid fixture since his conviction and that vitriolic emails about his wife that he sent to his sister were one of the highlights of the evidence against him.

O’Reilly is either delusional or so arrogant that he thinks his charm will wipe any previous knowledge from the minds of those he addresses.  He obviously has some intelligence but not half as much as he thinks he has.  What struck me about the article was not his claims about the flaws in the prosecution or his cheeky suggestion that whoever murdered Irene White must also have killed Rachel.  The details that said most about the character of Joe O’Reilly were the priggish comments about films and books, details that reveal a snobbish idiot who crows about how only he and the prison librarian really enjoyed Barrack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope.

“That was one of the books a few of us read in here, as part of a small book club we have.  That actually makes it sound more grandiose than it is.  All the ‘book club’ is, is an initiative myself and a few others started up through the school and the library to get (well try to) people in here interested in books and reading.  Then giving them a platform by which to give an opinion about the book for that month.”

So now we have the the crusading teacher of the less fortunate.  The man’s idiocy truly knows no bounds.

These letters represent a massive coup for the Star Sunday.  Fair play to them for getting him to talk but ultimately what today’s article shows is how little the unrepentant convict has to say.  All you will hear when you talk to someone like Joe O’Reilly are justifications and obfuscations.  He’s not going to suddenly admit what he did, so you are left with the surreal ravings of an insubstantial alibi.  The same kind of idiocy that made O.J. Simpson write If I Did It.  It’s arrogance and attention seeking at their worst.  But it does make great copy!

An Honourable Mention

I was absolutely chuffed a couple of weeks ago to be asked by Chapters Bookstore here in Dublin to do a Q&A for their blog.  They have a regular post in which writers answer 5 questions.  My answers went up today.

I was honoured to be asked.  Ask anyone in Dublin who loves to read and they will tell you that Chapters is the best book shop in town.  That’s not to say there aren’t other great ones but Chapters is the largest independent book shop in town and is always a treasure trove of both new and second hand finds.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know and I am now going to go and try and shrink my head a little!

A Dangerous Recidivist

Simon McGinley was sentenced to 21 years in jail today at the Central Criminal Court.  His crime was a horrific attack on an 86-year-old woman, who he raped after breaking into her house in the middle of the night.  21 years is an extraordinarily long sentence for rape in an Irish court but McGinley was no ordinary rapist.

He had appeared before the Central Criminal Court before and the crime he was accused of then caused the “C” case controversy when his 13-year-old victim, who had been taken into care after she became pregnant from the rape, had to apply to the courts to travel for an abortion.

Miss C was in the court today to see the man whose children she had once babysat, who had only been sentenced to six years for what he did to her twelve years ago, sentenced for this latest crime.

Through the sheer range in the ages of his victims, McGinley showed himself to be a dangerous predator who had shown no sign of reform.  Although he was sentenced to 21 years he will not serve the full term as Irish sentences include an automatic 25% remission as a carrot to encourage good behaviour in jail. But Mr Justice George Bermingham’s decision to hand down such a long sentence is definitely a step in the right direction.

Depressingly the six year sentence he was given for his earlier crime is more or less the norm for rape sentences in this country.  I’ve talked about this before on this blog and no doubt it will be a subject I return to as long as sentences for rapes here remain so pitifully short.  It’s worth noting that in the past, people who have raped children younger than 13 on numerous occassions have received sentences of a few years, or, as in the case of Philip Sullivan, have had  a weighty sentence reduced by the Court of Criminal Appeal in January this year.

McGinley has shown no remorse.  As he was brought out to the prison van past the waiting photographers today he turned to the cameras and said “I’m innocent.  I did not do this.”  This was in the face of over whelming DNA evidence.  It will be very interesting indeed to see how he fares on appeal.

If someone who has committed two such terrible crimes and continues to show no remorse or acknowledge what he has done does not warrant the life sentence, then how bad does a rape have to be to get it?  Getting a young teenager pregnant only warranted six years.  Isn’t it time that these sentences were looked at and minimum sentences introduced?  21 years was a good length but it shouldn’t be so rarely applied.  Rape is a serious enough crime to be tried in the Central Criminal Court – the sentences should reflect that.  Most rapists get less than people who are tried on certain drugs offences…in the Circuit Criminal Court.

With new legislation being passed through both houses of the Oireachtas recently that deals with “gangland” crime, surely they could have looked at an area of offending that has been needing reform for years.  Judges like Mr Justice Bermingham and Mr Justice Carney are attempting to hand down tougher sentences but they do tend to get reduced on appeal.  McGinley deserved his sentence but there are others who have been guilty of equally brutal crimes who have and will serve far fewer years.  Something will have to change.

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Not in Praise of Bloomsday…

Today, June 16th, was Bloomsday.  If you’re not familiar with the concept, June 16th 1904 is the day when all the action in James Joyce’s opus, Ulysses is set.  Every year on that day the great and good and literary and arty gather in Dublin to retrace the route taken by Leopold Bloom on a Sunday morning at the turn of the last century.

Joyce’s book has been heralded as a classic, a work of English unparalleled in the English language.  That’s why he gets his own day.

Now this is probably the point where I should come clean.  I hate Bloomsday.  I’ve lived in Dublin too long not to get profoundly irritated by the marauding crowds of arty types and tourists that clutter up the thoroughfares with glasses of Guinness and dressed up to the nines in approximations of Edwardian dress.  If you wander through the centre of Dublin on June 16th you will find a selection of middle aged idiots acting like undergraduates and giving the book that is on more peoples “haven’t quite got round to reading” list than most others I can think of, the Rocky Horror treatment.

Bloomsday Photo by Michael Stamp all rights reserved

Let me get this straight.  Bloomsday is not just a bit of harmless playacting, it’s irritating, embarrassing and teeth clenchingly awful!  It’s the one day of the year when you get to see people who really should have more self respect, dressing up like complete idiots and hitting the bars like a back of feckless 20 somethings.

I’m aware that by saying this I sound (a) a total ignoramous and (b) rather unsure about where I fall in the whole cool young thing and old fogey scale.  For starters I have read Ulysses.  I read it years ago when I first moved up to Dublin while I was devouring anything that came from the writers that had helped to make the city famous.  I was fairly voracious in my reading in those days and didn’t always check the postal address of my chosen read.

In those days I read Sean O’Casey, Samuel Beckett, Flann O’Brien, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw…I’m not sure why I didn’t get round to Behan…I think I got side tracked by Lewis Carroll.  Anyway, at the time I was working on an antique stall in the George’s Street Arcade.

My boss at the time was working on a book of postcards all sent on June 16th 1904, that corresponded with the various locations in the book.  He’d written a synopsis of the book to go with the images and, knowing that 19-year-old me was keen on writing, he asked me to check it, casually throwing me a copy of Ulysses to make sure he hadn’t left anything out.

So I read Ulysses.  From cover to cover.  I quite liked Leopold Bloom but preferred his wife Molly and couldn’t stand Stephen Dedalus, who I thought and continued to think was a pretentious little git.  In terms of Joyce’s prose, while I get what he was doing from a technical point of view, it just completely leaves me cold.

I will freely admit that this could have to do with the never ending stream of postcards or my bosses synopsis but Ulysses would not appear anywhere on my list of books I would want with me if I was ever marooned on a desert island and I would be quite pissed off if it found it’s way there ahead of me.

I know that Ulysses is held up as a work of genius.  I just don’t like it.  I’m not denigrating Joyce as a writer in any way…The Dead is one of the best shorter pieces of writing I have ever read.  I just don’t like Ulysses.  I don’t like the fact that the men run the plot while the women are either leched over virgins, prostitutes or adulteresses.  I don’t like the fact that the book that is now synonymous with Dublin is arguably the least accessible.  I don’t like the fact that Bloomsday itself tends to be a rather snobby affair with pantomime overtones.

Dublin has produced many fine writers;  Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Oscar Wilde, Sean O’Casey, Flann O’Brien, George Bernard Shaw.  Writers who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, writers who deserve to be celebrated each year but who only get a look in for centenaries or on whims.

So I say, let’s give Bloomsday a rest.  Next year let’s have At Swim Two Birds Day to celebrate Flann O’Brien’s lunatic masterpiece.  The day could start in Grogans Pub off Georges Street and there could be cowboys in Ringsend, someone sitting up a tree proclaiming that a “pint of plain’s yer only man”, come to thing of that could the the city’s clarion call.  We could have someone dressed up as the Pooka MacPhellimey and someone or something as Finn Mac Cool.

Instead of having a day where the middle classes dress up in straw boaters and give the day over to cataloguing the eating and drinking in Joyce’s novel, lets have one where the surreal and bizzarre takes over the city. Instead of a daytrip to Sandeymount and Grafton Street, lets see the cattle corralled in Ringsend.

It might actually work.  And it would be a lot less irritating that bloody Bloomsday.

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