Saturday, July 22, 2006

Disgusted with Derry

I'M ANGRY, and -to paraphrase that great philosopher of our time 'The Incredible Hulk'- you will not like me when I'm angry.

I have always been exceptionally proud to call Derry my home. I have been proud as punch of our sense of community spirit- our ability to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and get on with life when everyone and his granny seems to be conspiring against us.
Always a home-bird, I have never wanted to leave this city. I never wanted to be part of the 'brain-drain' and when I'd finished studying I returned to Derry to set up a home, start a family and settle down. I even managed to persuade my other half, an English man who had heard enough about the Troubles to put him off Northern Ireland for life, that Derry was different. I persuaded him that all that nasty business of the last 30 years was behind us and that this was actually a safe place to live. I was very smug in my praise of my hometown.
Last Saturday night Paul McCauley was kicked half to death. Two others were injured. My own brother had been at that party earlier in the evening and, by the grace of God, had gone home early. I cannot bear to think about the position our family may have been in now had he stayed.
I know the people who were at the party. I've met most of them at various times as they sauntered in and out of my mammy's house to see my brother. It seems trite to say it now, but there isn't a bad bone in any of them- but then no-one deserves to be jumped upon in their own garden and have their heads kicked in, bad bone or not.
The attack may or may not have been sectarian, but I think that in focusing on putting a label on the assault we are ignoring the most frightening aspect of this whole episode: There are people in this city who think it is perfectly acceptable to do as much physical damage to another human being as possible without thinking, for one second, about the consequences.
Those people include, but are by no means limited, to the scumbags who left Paul McCauley for dead. They prowl our city streets every weekend looking for people to batter to within an inch of their lives. They enjoy it. They thrive on seeing people scared, on hearing people beg them to stop. They are the worst kind of scum and they are dirtying the name of this city every time they lash out at someone for a bit of craic.

I find it hard not to get emotional when talking about this issue. Twelve years ago my brother was their target. He was pounced upon at 8.30 in the evening as he walked along the river with his friends. He was kicked in the head until he was battered and bruised and his teeth were smashed. His attackers kept on kicking him in the head until a passing car stopped and hauled him to safety.
I have emphasised the fact that he was kicked in the head because this shows how his attackers clearly didn't give a damn if they killed him. Every blow could have been fatal. Every blow knocked a little bit of confidence out of him that took many years to rebuild and yet we know that he was ultimately lucky.
If you are wondering, my brother's "crime" was that he dressed differently to his attackers. He didn't talk to them, didn't engage with them. He was just walking to a friend's house (in fact the same house where Sunday's attack occurred) when those responsible took a dislike to him.
My mother's best friend is a social worker attached to the Brain Injury unit. She admits she has been shocked at the increase in people needing support and treatment as a direct result of beatings they have sustained in this town we all love so well.
It is a shocking and sickening indictment of this city and how it is becoming a place that people no longer feel proud of.
At a time when we should be pulling tourists in by the thousands, when the City Council is doing all it can to make Derry as attractive as possible to residents and tourists alike, these animals think of nothing of destroying anything, or anyone, in their wake.
I think it is time that we got tough on our culture of street crime. I think it is time the people of Derry told everyone for once and for all that enough was enough and we aren't going to stand for this any more.
The fact is it could have been any of us who were beaten to a pulp in the early hours of Sunday morning. This wasn't a city centre street, it was a private back garden and any one of us could have been in it, enjoying a few drinks with friends while waiting for the sun to rise.
The attack on Paul McCauley shows once and for all and none of us are safe as long as these thugs are allowed to wander our streets and get away with attempted murder.
So yes, I'm angry. I want to be able to convince my husband that he lives in a city where we won't judged for our accents, our religions or what clothes we wear. I want to know that in 16 years time when our son goes out for the night I won't be pacing the floor worrying that he will be the latest victim of an unprovoked attack.
I want to feel proud to call Derry home again.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...