Closer educational targeting vital to reducing crime rates
ANALYSIS:Geographic realities must play a part in decisions on resources in our education system, writes CONOR LALLY
A FEW years ago, when writing of the demise of a leading gang member who had himself murdered people, I interviewed one of his relatives.
Usually in these situations, the person at the end of the phone is the mother, sister or partner of the gang member who has just been shot. Sometimes they are in tears, angry or shouting. They are always protesting the innocence of their just-deceased loved one.
They often phone to complain about coverage of the murder while members of the Garda Technical Bureau are still crawling around outside their home looking for rounds of ammunition from the killer’s gun.
This time it was different. The caller was a man and he was not ringing to complain. He had read the coverage about his slain relative and he wanted to talk about it.
We met up for what was perhaps one of the most insightful off-the-record interviews I have conducted in almost 10 years of covering crime in Ireland. He said he accepted his just-murdered family member was a serious gangland criminal. But he wanted to explain where it had all gone wrong.
It had started when the dead man had been diagnosed with a learning difficulty while still in primary school – a problem the school did not seem equipped to deal with. As he fell further behind he began mitching from class. When challenged about it by the teaching staff he lashed out, on one occasion physically. This led to his expulsion. “Then he just started hanging around the area at bonfires, drinking cans, robbing cars,” recalled the relative.
The wider family was functional, very much so in fact. Though living in one of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Ireland, all of his siblings completed their second-level education, and all bar one had gone on to third level. But from the time the problem child dropped out of school, the family lost control of him. He was effectively gone from them – and was quickly immersed in a life of crime.
Stealing cars in his early teens escalated to ram-raiding stolen vehicles into petrol station shops in the early hours to rifle them for cigarettes and drugs. As the crimes got bigger he was arrested, convicted and spent time in prison. When he came out of Mountjoy he began drug-dealing, and in an effort to establish himself in that competitive world he used guns to threaten his rivals and those who owed him money. His house was shot at and he shot up others – houses and people – until finally he lost his life to gun violence.