‘Love/Hate’ offers the illusion of insight into violence to safe Middle Ireland
Opinion: We have become largely inured to the obscenities of organised crime
Who can remember a single name among the litany of victims of the past decade? Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
RTE needed something like Love/Hate. The station’s record in building audiences around home-produced drama has been patchy. Series like The Clinic and Raw perhaps marked the beginnings of a new direction, with vivid characters and plot lines reflecting contemporary issues. But Love/Hate has left them standing. It will yield a significant commercial dividend.
Stuart Carolan is a talented scriptwriter. He has created a cast of characters who are engaging, complex and even, in places, likeable. His writing is complemented by the abilities of a superb team of actors. There is an abundance of talent here across all the skills.
If it wasn’t so good, I might be less worried about it. If it wasn’t so absorbing, I would be less troubled by its capacity to reduce to riveting, small-screen entertainment a set of realities that are sordid, brutal, depraved and a shameful reflection on a society that considers itself civilised and generally law-abiding.
We have become largely inured to the obscenities of organised crime and gangland violence. Broadcasters and print journalists now get a minute of airtime or perhaps three paragraphs when another young man has had his brains blown out in some housing estate or public house.
Go on, test yourself; try to remember a single name among the litany of victims recorded by the news media, say in the past decade.
There is disturbingly little awareness of the scale of gangland murder in our society. In the 30-year period between 1969 and 1999, by best estimates, about 113 people died violently in this State as a result of spillover from the Northern Ireland Troubles. But in the period since the murder of Veronica Guerin in 1996 there have been almost 300 gangland deaths, the majority by shooting.
It is true that Irish crime rates overall are still low by comparison with many of our neighbours. Our numbers of recorded homicides in relation to population are less than a third of those in the United Kingdom, for example. In some years, many Irish counties have no homicides at all. But the figures become much more disturbing when you realise that almost all the gangland murders are concentrated in two or three clearly identified suburbs.
Journalists and broadcasters faithfully record each killing in its outline details. They rarely now bring us behind the human stories. Sometimes the victims are not nice people, often being involved in violent crime themselves. But each of them is some mother’s son, or somebody’s partner or some child’s parent. Yet one can count on the figures of one hand the number of times this plague of death has been raised in the Dáil or Seanad.
Middle-class Ireland doesn’t want to know. A silent consensus has developed that since this is almost wholly a matter of criminals killing criminals, it can be tolerated, accepted as a fact of 21st-century life, perhaps even subliminally welcomed. It’s “scum wiping out scum”, I once heard a barrister say after a trying day in the criminal courts.