Silence in Tallaght about trio’s deaths in N7 crash tells its own story

Local politicians almost as wary of commenting as community workers, says former TD

The funeral of Dean Maguire, who died along with two other men when the car they were travelling in hit a lorry while they were driving the wrong direction up the N7 near Baldonnel. Photograph: Collins

The funeral of Dean Maguire, who died along with two other men when the car they were travelling in hit a lorry while they were driving the wrong direction up the N7 near Baldonnel. Photograph: Collins

 

It’s the talk of the community, but nearly three weeks on no one is saying anything following the deaths of three young men in a horrific motorway crash as they drove at night on the wrong side of the road.

The incident, involving the BMW 3 Series – moving at speed with the lights off – and a lorry on the N7 between Citywest and Baldonnell, attracted plenty of headlines.

The scene of the July 7th collision remains marked by bouquets tied to a motorway light remembering Dean Maguire (29), Graham Taylor (31) and Karl Freeman (26), who were believed to have been part of the same burglary gang.

However, the men’s funerals – especially that of Maguire on July 16th – shed a different light, one on those still living.

Dean Maguire’s send-off set the tone, leaving the prior of the Dominican Church of St Mary’s in old Tallaght village, Fr Donal Roche, struggling to cope with mourners’ conduct. Photograph: Facebook
Dean Maguire (29). Photograph: Facebook
Graham Taylor (31). Photograph: Facebook
Graham Taylor (31). Photograph: Facebook
Carl Freeman (26). Photograph: Facebook
Carl Freeman (26). Photograph: Facebook

Maguire’s send-off set the tone, leaving the prior of the Dominican Church of St Mary’s in old Tallaght village, Fr Donal Roche, struggling to cope with mourners’ conduct. A mild mannered, soft-spoken man, he tried to regulate the numbers entering in line with pandemic restrictions, but was ignored.

Plastic tape sealing off pews was ripped away, and people sat where they wanted. Few wore masks. Even fewer paid attention to the liturgy, walking in and out during the funeral Mass. At one stage, Fr Roche told the congregation he would halt proceedings if they did not show some respect.

The three deceased were well known across Tallaght, especially to those who have worked over the years trying to keep young men out of trouble and jail. None would talk openly this week.

“I can’t, I just can’t,” said one person who dealt with the three when they were in their teens. “I could show you youth workers who would have said, back then, that those three are going to end up where they have ended.

“But we have to work with the community here and if I talk, that trust will be broken.”

It is an understandable view and one reflected by others.

Clearly frustrated, the individual speaks of people living in a community where wrongdoers do not face the penalties they should for criminal and anti-social behaviour, while everyone else looks on, powerless.

Gesturing, the individual says: “See down there. A car mowed down a young fella there. There’s a woman now, his mother, who knows who done it, we all know who done it, and they’re still around here. She has to live with that.

“Over there [indicating in the opposite direction], there was a shooting there not long ago. A shotgun, here!”

Tallaght has become a diverse community since it began to be built up in the 1970s. Now, some 80,000 people (the same size population as Galway city) live in several distinct estates and areas sandwiched between the M50 on the east, the N7 to the north, the N82 to the west and the Dodder river valley to the south.

There is a significant ethnic and racial mix of white Irish, black and Asian new Irish, people from central and eastern Europe, along with Travellers and settled Travellers.

There is obvious evidence of deep-rooted social deprivation and trashed public realm – not everywhere but in significant pockets, including in parts of Kiltalown, Jobstown, Brookfield and Springfield.

‘You know the score’

The details of Maguire’s funeral have become notorious in the space of little more than a week.

“RIP Dean,” said a poster brought to it. “You know the score, get on the floor, don’t be funny, give me the money.”

Altar gifts included a torch and screwdriver – the tools, sometimes weapons, of burglary. There was also a crepe-paper wreath of a screwdriver.

On Friday, Fr Hugh Kavanagh, who said the funeral Mass, said he did not believe the liturgy had been hijacked, though he said he had not known what items would be brought up as offertory gifts.

After Prayers of the Faithful, a young woman gave her own tribute, no asterisks, no beeps. “Sorry for the language Father,” she shouted from the altar, “rest in peace, you f**king legend”.

Outside, the hearse was driven off to Newland’s Cross Cemetery escorted by a fleet of motorbikes, led by a Suzuki racer, its engine screaming as the rider burnt rear-wheel rubber into the road.

One video posted online, some others have since been removed or edited, including one made by the funeral directors O’Dwyers of Meath Street, have been widely circulated since.

The images have brought Tallaght headlines that it could have done without, say community workers, who speak of the good work being done across the community, especially in schools.

“We’ve brilliant schools and brilliant teachers who do huge work with kids on the edges,” says this person. “Most people are good, decent, wholesome people who get up and do what they must do every day for their kids.”

There are successes, too. “I’ve a lad who went through here,” said another person who helps some of the teenagers, “and he’s a social worker now. There’s another who’s just started his own business”.

However, there is a “brokenness” that pushed some younger people into crime, they say, especially in some families were the normal rules of behaviour in society have been long abandoned.

“There is an instinct for this sort of behaviour . . . there is a not insignificant question of drugs and there is the question of money, how it is seen as important and what it can bring,” said one.

Maguire and the others were part of a robbery gang that terrorised householders across the west and midlands, sometimes in league with “Fat” Andy Connors, a Saggart-based burglary gang boss who was killed in August 2014.

Local politicians are almost as wary of commenting as community workers and others who play significant roles in society, says long-time councillor and former Fianna Fáil TD Charlie O’Connor.

Tallaght’s mayor, Peter Kavanagh, expressed sympathy to the families of the dead men and was criticised for it, while O’Connor was contacted by people who urged him not to go to the funerals.

“There are people giving out at all this ‘celebrating crime’ but the mayor made the point that he was sympathising with the family and their loss,” said O’Connor.

Most people in Tallaght did not want to see the scenes that took place at the Priory Church, while Friday’s edition of the local weekly newspaper, the Tallaght Echo, had zero coverage of the funerals.

A YouTube video of Freeman’s funeral, produced by O’Dwyers, mixes pop and rap music with footage of his coffin being carried and tributes from friends.

It opens with a red-headed man in a white shirt speaking to camera and seeming to talk to the man whose smashed and burnt body lay in a coffin nearby, ready for burial.

Aggressive motorbike outriders

“Karl! Look around you bro,” the man says. “You had a lot of big brothers around you here who loved you and are going to miss you . . . Look around you. Please, show the camera, show the camera,” he instructs the person filming.

“Karl, Karl, Karl, Karl, my brother, you’ve a lot big brothers around you man and we’re never going to forget you. I promise,” the video continues.

By comparison with Maguire’s, Taylor and Freeman’s funerals were more low key, especially inside St Aidan’s Church in Jobstown, though aggressive motorbike outriders again accompanied the hearses to the graveyard.

Freeman, who had 62 convictions including for assault, burglary, dangerous driving and endangerment, is believed to have been driving the crashed car, the bodies inside of which could be identified only through DNA matching.

Taylor had been given a 40-year driving ban. In all, he had 120 convictions, including 11 for dangerous driving. In court in March 2019, his barrister pleaded leniency, saying Taylor “recognised that it was time to change his life”.

Now, Taylor is buried in Bohernabreena Cemetery alongside Jennifer, who died in 1985 aged one, under a mound of family photographs and crepe paper wreaths, and images of Ray-Ban sunglasses and an Audi car.

Maguire and Freeman are in Newland’s Cross Cemetery – Maguire in row Q, plot 53, Freeman in row F, plot 23 – along with his mother, Michelle, who died in 2017 aged 50.

Freeman’s grave is festooned with crepe-paper wreaths showing images of him, cannabis leaves, vodka and boxing gloves.

Maguire’s grave is similarly festooned. Madman, says one blue and white crepe-paper wreath. There’s a stopped clock (at 7.15 on July 7th, for no obvious reason), a cider bottle, the notorious screw driver, and a picture of him and his girlfriend, her left hand placed across his chest.

A young woman, looking the same age as the one in the photograph, wanders over to the grave.

“Terrible, isn’t it?” she says, “no matter which way you look at it. And three young children. . .”