Grandfather of entertainer dies

Tue, Sep 22, 2009, 01:00

The elderly grandfather of a well-known entertainer has died in hospital almost a week after he was left unconscious following a break-in at his home in Waterford city.

Paddy Barry (82) died at around 5.30am in Waterford Regional Hospital having sustained head injuries during the robbery at his home in the Mount Sion area of the city between 8pm and 10pm last Wednesday.

One man was questioned by detectives in Waterford following the incident under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act. He was released on Thursday and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

His grandson, the magician Keith Barry, and family paid tribute to Mr Barry.

“He was a wonderful man - a great father, an amazing grandfather, a doting great grandfather and he will be missed by not only his family but his neighbours and community,” a statement from the family said.

The Barry family also thanked everyone who sent their wishes, thoughts and prayers. “We would like to extend our thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff at Waterford Regional Hospital for their kindness and care to Paddy, and to the gardaí in Waterford for their professionalism.”

Keith Barry had criticised the Irish criminal justice system over the weekend on the Marian Finucane Showradio show.

During the programme Mr Barry called on the Department of Justice to introduce tougher laws to punish those who target older people. He said other elderly people living in the usually quiet Mount Sion area of the city were petrified following the attack.

“These thugs have no fear. They have no fear for the law. They have no fear for the justice system and they have no fear of us in our homes,” he said.

“I think anybody who enters a pensioner’s home uninvited . . . should get a mandatory sentence, without bail, without excuses,” he told the programme.

The Department said the Law Reform Commission is drafting a Bill of complex legislation to address matters surrounding break-ins. Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern is expected to table a set of reforms on the subject before the end of this year.

Age Action this morning extended its condolences to Mr Barry’s family and said he was a victim of "one of the most callous, cold-hearted forms of crime".

The organisation also urged all communities to review the safety precautions being taken by their older neighbours, friends and relatives, in the wake of the death of the Waterford pensioner.

“This attack must act as a wake-up call to all communities to ensure their older members are taking basic precautions to prevent crime,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said. “Garda statistics show that older people are less likely to be victims of crime than other sections of society, so long as they take basic security precautions.”

Age Action also urged the establishment of community watch schemes and for older people to make contact with their local Garda station for crime prevention advice. “If communities were to react by taking these steps it would be practical and lasting response to this tragedy,” Mr Timmins said.

He added: “We are anxious that older people do not respond to this latest attack by retreating into fortified homes, for fear of being victims of crime. If people take basic precautions they should be able to continue living full, active lives, without any undue fear of being victims of crime."

The charity advised people to take precautions such as using a door chain when answering the front door, never allowing in uninvited tradespeople, and not keeping large sums of money in the home.

This evening the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament expressed its condolences Mr Barry’s family and said his death highlights the need for the “whole community to take seriously the issue of security for older people in their homes”.

Last week, the Government rejected a Fine Gael Bill which would have given greater protection to householders who attack burglars in their home.

Ken Barry, Keith's father, said he was disappointed with Fine Gael for “playing politics” with the issue and criticised the party's justice spokesman Charles Flanagan.

Mr Flanagan said the response to the attack on Mr Barry showed the public wanted more powers for homeowners to defend themselves against intruders, and the frontbencher accused the Minister for Justice of cynically refusing to implement Fine Gael’s Home Defence Bill.