I will remember a man who was kind and witty and not the crass headlines
Opinion: The sordid and detailed reports added greatly to the suffering of Tom O’Gorman’s friends
A photograph of Tom O’Gorman, who was found dead at his home in Castleknock, is displayed at a prayer vigil held for him at St Teresa’s, Clarendon St, Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Tom O’Gorman has 1,052 Facebook friends. He is the only person I know who could probably credibly claim that he knows them all personally. And he probably has several hundred more friends aside from that.
I wrote that in the present tense, didn’t I? Because I can’t get my head around the fact that Tom will slowly start slipping into the past, as the rest of us voyage on in time.
No more mimicry, no more intellectual arguments, no more blog posts, no more turning into mush every time a small child hoves into view.
People have posted lots of pictures of Tom on social media in recent days, but my favourite is one where he is sitting on a seat where a one-year-old boy is standing.
Tom is wearing a Barcelona T-shirt, and he and the little lad, Tadhg O’Broin, are gazing at each other, contented members of a small mutual admiration society. Tadhg’s arm is resting on Tom’s shoulder. They both look very happy.
I wish that image were the one that everyone had of Tom, that he had not been depersonalised as the “chess game murder victim”. I wish that some of our media had shown a modicum of restraint in the headlines that they plastered across their front pages.
Headlines that went into crass and absolutely unnecessary detail about the violent death suffered by a gentle man, and with what excuse? What public interest was served?
The gratuitously graphic headlines, and sordid, detailed reports added enormously to the sufferings of his family and friends.
The way in which murder is reported has become coarsened, often more focused on satisfying the worst kind of morbid curiosity, rather than on remembering that each victim is a human being with friends and family.
The relief I felt when this paper and RTÉ decided not to do the same was immense.
Tom had his life taken from him in the most violent way possible. At least some news organisations understood that it would be a further violation to also take his dignity.
I was not in Tom’s closest circle of friends by any means, and even I tottered around in a haze after hearing the news, an uncomprehending, dazed haze. I cannot imagine what those closer to him were feeling.
He was a wickedly witty, sometimes awkward, always kind man, who had enormous knowledge in a dizzying array of areas, from music to sport, from film to politics, from current affairs to history.
He could talk for Ireland, and social media were just another irresistible playground to indulge his eclectic interests and his love of chat and craic. It is impossible to comprehend that he is gone.
The decision to hold a prayer service for Tom in St Theresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, Dublin, last Tuesday was inspired. Tom was single, and the murder had happened in his own home. There was nowhere to gather, nowhere to drop a plate of sandwiches or a card. Given the delayed funeral, friends and family needed to come together, to try to make some kind of sense of the most senseless event.
In the darkened church, with tea lights flickering, there was a sombre air of grief, but a shared, dignified grief, and the relief of being with people who knew and loved him.
Something that Fr Stephen Kelly said made me smile for the first time about Tom. Fr Stephen said that we had come to pray for him, not canonise him.
Some kind of tight knot relaxed inside me. I could just see Tom’s wry grin, the glance over the glasses, his ironic assent, his appreciation of his friend’s remark.
For him, faith wasn’t a source of smug superiority, but rather an admission that he didn’t have all the answers, was weak and fallible, and needed the grace of God every day.
Tom’s good friend Dr Joe McCarroll spoke towards the end of the service of “a vulnerability about Tom that marks someone who has been through suffering, and it made him sensitive to suffering in others and instinctively ‘there-for-them’.”
He also spoke of an aspect of Tom that many of us recognised, the twinkly, good-humoured contrarian who relished any battle of wits.
Even people with very different ideological outlooks could not help liking him, perhaps because of his sense of humour, and his gift for “acerbic and hilarious” exaggeration.
Joe ended by saying how “one sentence keeps ringing in my mind. [In a recent talk] Tom said that Jesus said, ‘Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do’.”
Forgiveness, Joe said, was no easy word to say and mean, “but it is the fulcrum and force we need to encompass the unspeakable circumstances of his death, so we may access our grief properly and reclaim our memory and love of Tom, and as we say in Ireland, walk him out to the gate, and with good prayers, help him off on his way home”.
We miss you, bud. Go safely home.