Two disturbing incidents of violent crime in Cork in the past week have reminded many of us city dwellers that we may not be as safe as we feel.
While Cork City and County are generally very safe places to live and work, incidents like last week’s shooting in Wilton and stabbing on Pope’s Quay show that violent crime is not confined to ‘gangland’.
While the shooting in cold blood in Wilton last Wednesday night of Gerard Staunton is being linked by Gardaí to criminal activity – and the shooting has reportedly been claimed by the Real IRA – that does not mean that its effects are contained within ‘the criminal world’.
Mr Staunton’s partner and her two small children – who have committed no offence – watched him die. Wilton has been spread all over the national news as the site of a ‘gangland’ shooting. The damage done to the family and friends of Mr Staunton is immense, and their pain is very real. They deserve sympathy at this terrible time.
Having lived in Limerick for a number of years, I know better than most that, while it may be that ‘criminals are shooting each other’ and not innocent bystanders (with notable exceptions like Shane Geoghegan), society suffers as a result.
Witnessing a violent death is something people never recover from. Violent crime, even among feuding gangs, reduces everybody’s quality of life because it is abhorrent to anybody with any kind of human empathy.
Last week’s other major incident, the stabbing on Pope’s Quay, was tragically ironic because it took place just hours after Chris Luke, consultant in emergency medicine at CUH, appeared on the Late Late Show to discuss the increase in knife crimes he sees every day.
While most of us feel relatively insulated from ‘gangland’ shootings, knife crime is in a different category. It can be and often is completely random – a fist fight outside a chipper after closing time or a ‘dirty look’ in the street can translate very quickly into the flash of a blade and the destruction of a life.
Damian Wilkonski, the 23-year-old Polish man who was stabbed on Friday night, is still fighting for his life in CUH. We don’t know the circumstances of the attack on him but it’s to be hoped that he will recover. Nobody deserves to die because of a random attack on the side of the street.
Both crimes are a cautionary reminder to all of us that the old rules about not walking home alone and taking basic precautions about our personal security are not obsolete.
Cork is not ‘a violent city’; two incidents do not make it such. But following Mr Luke’s evidence on the Late Late Show and last week’s two crimes, it’s clear that violent crime is very much a presence in all our lives, whether we live in ‘gangland’ or not.