Every life counts

Mar 2nd, 2013 | By | Category: Ireland

In less happy times in the North, news reports would occasionally carry stories of the death of people involved in paramilitary violence. If someone planting explosives blew himself up, there were those who would have expressed open delight, and others who would have felt a certain sense of satisfaction at the outcome.

The attitude that certain deaths are of no great consequence is one that has persisted long after the Troubles ended and in places far removed from the North.  The news frequently carries news of the deaths of young men involved in gangland activities or involved in drugs dealing, as soon as the news reader says the deceased was known to Gardai, you can almost imagine the knowing nods at breakfast tables around the country.

Middle class people tend to be untouched by the gangland deaths in the way that many middle class people were insulated against much of the worst sectarianism in the North.  Living there from 1983 until 1999 I never once encountered danger or threats, yet working class parishioners where I worked would have to contend with such realities every day.  Perhaps if the middle classes were more affected, we would be less tolerant of violent crime.

Tomorrow’s Gospel reading is a warning to those who tacitly accept that some deaths are of no great consequence. In Saint Luke Chapter 13, Jesus makes it clear that he would not have tolerated an attitude which said that the casual deaths of those caught up in violence was something that might pass without comment, without regret.  He warns his listeners that people involved in violence were not worse than other people.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

His warning has made me think twice when I switch on the news and hear of the shooting of someone who has been involved in drugs dealing.  Murder demeans a whole society, it devalues all life.  No-one’s life is expendable.


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  1. Your post confirms that every reader can take something different from what is written.

    In Cork , the 10.00 service was at 10.30 and gospel included the parable:
    Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ “

    The interpretation this morning was along the lines that one ought not be condemned after one year, two years or even three,four or five. There is always hope.

    Using a sporting analogy, I read it as a yellow card or final warning. One last chance and then we will cut you down. Repeat offenders known to Gardai could be considered as having had their final warning or feed of maure already.

    Same piece. Different interpretations. Somewhat explained by you both being rectors and me being an agnostic – one that some might class as middle-class, at that.

  2. After yet another “gangland” killing in Dublin last night (a 25 tear old man) I am left wondering why so many young people in working class areas get caught up in crime. Perhaps they see no hope of meaningful work, few if any facilities in their areas, continuous cuts in income supports, cutbacks in the few community services available, cuts in education and successive governments that have not just ignored the plight of the young unemployed but actually exacerbated their situation. Your comment about the reaction to killings like this one is certainly true. How do we change the situation?

  3. I think the gangland activity is a parallel of the Loyalist ‘protest’ activity in the North – in both cases, the violence comes from an environment of complete alienation.

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