A senior Garda told two grieving families on Friday that their support for an anti-violence campaign could result in “somebody else’s child getting home safely”.
Chief Superintendent Aidan Glacken from the Sligo/Leitrim division was speaking at the launch of a video promoting the "Use your Brain, Not Your Fists" message, made by young people in Leitrim with the help of two families, including one bereaved as a result of an unprovoked assault.
The Chief Superintendent pointed out that the genesis of the project which targets potential perpetrators of unprovoked assaults, lay in horrific family tragedies which were “too unbearable to contemplate”.
Among those attending the launch in Carrick on Shannon were Joe and Rosie Dolan who lost their son Andrew following an unprovoked assault six years ago, and Joe and Joan Grogan from Tuam, Co Galway whose son Shane suffered a catastrophic brain injury after a brick was thrown at him while he walked his girlfriend home. Both families feature in the video, made by the teenage members of Comhairle na nÓg in Co Leitrim.
Mr Grogan said there should be mandatory sentences of 10 years for such violent life-changing unprovoked assaults. Recalling the court case which followed his son’s attack, he said his biggest regret was that he did not bring Shane into the courtroom so that the sentencing Judge could see “the dire consequences of what happened to Shane that night”.
Among those who attended the launch was local District Court Judge Kevin Kilrane who was presiding in the nearby courthouse, and briefly delayed the court sitting in order to express solidarity.
Garda crime prevention officer Sgt Kelvin Courtney, who worked closely with the young people making the videos said it was unusual in that it targeted potential perpetrators, while most anti-crime campaigns were directed at victims. "This makes sense," he told the young people. "If we can get you to take that moment to think before you throw that punch or throw that kick, it could save a life.
“What you are doing here will make a real difference”.
Mr Dolan told the gathering that the family continues to be devastated by the loss of Andrew. Pleading for an end to “senseless, mindless violence” on our streets he said many of the assaults were committed by people “out of control, largely due to intoxication”.
Chief Superintendent Glacken said what struck him most about the Dolan family was their humanity and their concern not just for other victims but for perpetrators of random senseless assaults whose lives and whose families were also changed by these events. He said there were implications for jobs and travel plans, and shame for families of those who lashed out causing death or serious injury.
He appealed to young people out socialising to plan their journeys, to never walk alone, to avoid dark and dangerous routes “and to arrive home safely”. Taking a step back from confrontation and urging friends to do the same thing , was crucial, he stressed.
Praising the young people behind the video which was facilitated by Sinead Dolan of Lough Bo films, Mr Dolan said he believed if his son’s attackers had seen it before they went out that night “he would be here today”.
Mr Grogan said he and his wife were thankful that unlike the Dolan family, they can at least be with their son, a young man who could cycle 50 kilometres after work before the attack, and who can no longer walk or talk. He recalled that as they kept vigil with their son in Beaumont Hospital they got hundreds of cards and letters of support from around the country including one from Joe and Rosie Dolan “hoping that everything would turn out good for Shane”.