Inequality feeds culture of criminality
Fassaroe is still one of the most deprived areas in the country, with huge unemployment, a high incidence of single parenthood, early school leaving and antisocial behaviour. The phrase “antisocial behaviour” doesn’t come near capturing the scale of the frequent violence, intimidation and criminality that is a feature of the area. (I base this on the evidence of a friend who is from the area.)
Philly O’Toole got caught up in this criminality. He developed links with criminal gangs and with the Real IRA. He got involved in drug dealing and spent time in jail. Not many people who went to Gonzaga, Clongowes, Blackrock or Castleknock develop links with criminal gangs or with the Real IRA – or at least not with organisations we associate with criminal gangs.
It is essentially a class issue, an issue arising from deprivation and extreme inequality. And part of that deprivation is a deprivation of respect, which may be the most insidious part of deprivation. A large swathe of our community feels disrespected, in large part because it is disrespected. These people feel powerless because they are powerless and some of them rebel against this via criminality, which gives to some of them a status and a sense of respect, even if it is often coerced respect.
When the media reported on Philly O’Toole’s murder, invariably it was mentioned he was “known to the gardaí”, and his conviction on drug charges and for possession of a shotgun were also mentioned.
Yes it was reported he had a seven-month-old son but the message that was conveyed about Philly O’Toole was that he was from among, in the grotesque parlance of crime journalism, the “scumbag” fraternity.
The lack of respect shown to him in life followed him to the grave. There was barely any mention of the people who loved him, who are deeply grieved by his death, of how he looked after people, and loved people in return. And how, almost certainly, it was because he loved people that he took the risk that led to his cruel death.
There was another victim last week of criminality which finds its roots in deprivation. This was Adrian Donohoe, by all accounts a fine person and a great garda, who was murdered on Friday night, probably by another criminal gang, a gang comprising people none of whom went to Gonzaga, Clongowes, Blackrock or Castleknock.
I am not saying people do not have responsibility for their own actions. I am saying that a great deal of criminality, as we understand criminality, is derived in large part from the sordid inequality we ordain to persist.