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Bishop urges Limerick to rejoice at triumph over “gangland evil”

By Sarah Mac Donald - 21 August, 2013

City and people urged to concentrate on building a better future.

Photo courtesy of Limerick Diocese

Photo courtesy of Limerick Diocese

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick has admitted he was irritated by the way people joked when his appointment was announced that he was heading to the “crime capital of Ireland.”

“It irritated me and yet I had to recognise that criminal violence and social problems have been part of this city’s story and had to be named,” he said in St Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday.

Naming an evil, though often painful, is necessary in order for the evil to be overcome, he said in a homily which addressed his adopted city’s gangland criminality.

Referring to the conviction of John Dundon for his role in the murder of Garryowen rugby player, Shane Geoghegan, Bishop Brendan Leahy said the people of Limerick could “take solace in the significance of this week’s triumph over gangland evil”.

Dundon was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for ordering a gunman to act as a hitman in the killing of a rival. The gunman, however, targeted a totally innocent Shane Geoghegan on 9 November 2008 after mistaking him for the intended target.

The details which emerged in the trial had revealed the “evil intentions and recklessness” of the criminals involved as well as the “callous indifference to life,” Bishop Leahy commented.

He said the publicity around this trial reminded the public of the “horrible spectre of gang rivalry and crime.”

People had heard criminality was “lurking all around” in the city. “Thankfully the gangland rules of ‘silence’ have been overturned by those prepared to speak words of truth and to work for truth and justice,” he said.

The work of the Gardaí, the legal system, the judiciary, and witnesses in securing a conviction had allowed Limerick to “stand up to criminal behaviour and say: ‘enough, no more, this is horribly evil; it is not worthy of the dignity of our city’.”

He said the verdict helped the people of Limerick to “draw a line in the sand regarding a particularly insidious threat to us all and to build upon the great potential of our city.”

“We pray that now that this line has been drawn, those who would heretofore have stayed on the dark side will cross over into the light. We pray that the great work of recent years in cutting through the evil web of crime in our city is not undone and that Limerick continues flourishes – for all its people.”

The Bishop, who was installed in April, told the congregation that Limerick “is a wonderful city”, with a fine history, dignified buildings, literary figures and artistic achievements. In recent times, there is a new energy around, he remarked.

“We have the 2030 plan in place, full of ambition and vision. New civic arrangements are being put in place that are bringing the city and county together. The Limerick Year of Culture is just around the corner. Our airport in Shannon is resurgent. Physical regeneration is starting to take shape. Many steps have been taken to create a better place for all of us.”

Speaking in St Mary’s Cathedral in the heart of Limerick city, Bishop Leahy told parishioners that in order for good to win out over evil, it had to be lived out day by day in small practical ways in the family, within a parish or neighbourhood, in a business concern or in schools.

The conviction of John Dundon was “a judicial drawing of a line in the sand for Limerick” for which the people of the city could be thankful, but they needed now to concentrate on building a better future, he said.

“This week has given us a significant signal. We can start again. This city can, and is being given a new name, a positive name, a hopeful name. A name it deserves so that in the future, while the scars of our city’s history will remain, we will have gone beyond the wounds of fear and gangland terror, of dark and troubled socio-economic circumstances and divisions,” he said.

“In going beyond these wounds, we will learn from our troubles and so be able to help people in their troubles. If we take up this opportunity and build up a sanctuary-city, a people-city, then others will discover hope in us. Instead of being cited as an example of a city in despair, we will be cited as an example of hope,” he suggested.

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