Flowers and photograph mark spot where ‘great friend to have’ shot dead

Nobody had a bad word to say about the young man who was shot up to six times

 The scene outside Noctor’s pub on Sheriff Street, Dublin,  where Martin O’Rourke (above) was shot dead. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The scene outside Noctor’s pub on Sheriff Street, Dublin, where Martin O’Rourke (above) was shot dead. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times


“It’s terrible, absolutely shocking,” said Mary Reilly from Dublin’s Sheriff Street as she examined the bouquets and photograph taped to the post with the cul-de-sac sign on top. She spoke for the whole country.

“Tell them Mary Reilly says sorry for what happened,” she urged The Irish Times. “And Angela Murphy, ” chipped in her friend, Angela.

Mary and Angela were but two of the steady stream of passing women who pausing to look at the two dozen or so bunches of flowers taped to posts at the junction of Lower Sheriff Street and Upper Oriel Street – and to peer also at the two dark stains, still wet, on the tarmac.

They mark the spot where Martin O’Rourke (24) fell dead, shot up to half a dozen times by an assassin on a bicycle, a killer for the Kinahan gang, the Ireland- and Spain-based mob feuding with an inner city Dublin gang connected to the Hutch family.

O’Rourke wasn’t part of that feud but he was, in all likelihood, in the area because of other aspects of what some who knew him say was his chaotic life, a life blighted by sporadic drug use that may in part have been the cause – or the result – of his homelessness.

“There’s after been a lot of Travellers down,” said another woman between mouthfuls of Chinese food from a white paper carton, noodles from Sheriff Street’s take-away, the centre of life, along with Noctor’s pub opposite, for many of the area’s young men. “Was he from Enniscorthy?” she asked.

Her friend, who laughed uproariously at the idea of telling her name – “call me Michelle,” she suggested – said her family knew O’Rourke from an outreach programme.

O’Rourke’s last known address before his murder at lunchtime on Thursday was a hostel in the George’s Hill/ Halston Street area behind the Four Courts.

Fr Peter McVerry knew him and his on/off struggle with drugs but said despite his many problems, he was “a harmless, lovable young fellow”.

At George’s Hill Apartments and at Focus Ireland in Temple Bar, the people in charge felt unable to say anything about O’Rourke – about the person that he was, what he liked, what he did not, his character and his personality.

But he had a family. He had a partner and a child. Someone who knew him, and seemingly loved him, left a framed photograph, taped to the Sheriff Street post, showing him cradling a child. “She’s expecting,” said ‘Michelle’. “Terrible, isn’t it?”

The man sitting outside Lenehans of Capel Street, a hopeful paper cup on the ground in front of him, knew O’Rourke. “He was a very good fellow and a great friend to have,” said the 46-year-old man, who, despite his circumstances (three years homeless and an adult life smothered by the deaths of his children), looked at least 10 years younger.

“Whenever you’d see him,” said the man who declined to give his name, “he’d be with his girlfriend. They were very close. He’d push over to you and talk to you, like a lot of Travellers do. I was only talking to him a few days ago down by the GPO.”

Paul, an emaciated-looking young man begging on the Millennium Bridge, also knew Martin. “He was a very nice fellow,” said Paul, who was homeless “since me Ma died”.

“He just kept to himself. I just knew him through the streets. He was a nice fellow. He never done anything wrong by me.” Just then, a well-dressed man leaned down. “Here,” he said, “I got you that,” and handed Paul a cup of coffee and a chocolate muffin.

“Aw, thanks,” said Paul, and, as the man walked on, turned to me with the coffee. “Do you want that?” he offered as he launched into the muffin.

Back in Lower Sheriff Street, a young girl tried to light one of the blue tea light candles at the foot of the post with the flowers and the picture. Her pal caressed the image of O’Rourke’s check and blessed herself.

She didn’t know him; no one really knew him in that part of town, but among the fraternity of the homeless, Martin was known and he was liked.

“Egos,” said ‘Michelle’, thinking out loud about how an innocent man, whose luck was never up, met his end, shot dead by gangsters not for money or for drugs. “Egos – that’s what it’s about. They all want to be in power,” she said of the feuding gangs.

Outside the takeaway, the young men kicked something about the pavement. For want of anything better to do.