. . . news of the abnormal becomes normal again.
The world reopened again yesterday. Pubs could have customers standing at the bar, nowhere had to close at eight o’clock, young people went to clubs in large numbers, sporting events could be run with full capacity crowds. These events might have been considered newsworthy a few weeks ago, but why would anyone now be interested in the normal and everyday?
The true mark of the return to normality is the return to the front pages of the abnormal and there cannot be many stories more abnormal than the one from Carlow this week.
A man called at the Staplestown Road Post Office in Carlow and said he wanted to collect the pension for an old man in the town. A member of staff said the pensioner would need to collect the money himself.
A while later, the first man returned with a companion. Between them they carried the pensioner, or to be more precise, it is alleged that they carried the body of the pensioner. When a staff member became suspicious and said the old man looked unwell, the two men dropped the body and ran off.
A full scale inquiry was launched into the case of the body in the post office, an inquiry that concluded that the man had died of natural causes at home. One newspaper led with the headline that the local priest knew the man was dead because he had given him the last rites.
The story seemed a moment when the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez met the dark humour of John Millington Synge. A mixture of the bizarre and the macabre, it could have been a scene from a black comedy.
How desperate would the men have to have been to take the old man’s body to the post office in an attempt to claim his €248 weekly pension? Who would do such a thing?
Fraud might be a criminal offence, but it is as nothing compared with a failure to treat the dead in the proper way. Whatever criminal laws may have been broken, for most people, it will be the disrespect that was shown to the body of the old man that will be regarded as a heinous crime. There is a breaking of old taboos, a lack of respect for the dignity of the person, a failure to acknowledge the sanctity of the human body.
It is reassuring to return to abnormality.