Reading about the life and death of Keane Mulready-Woods following his childhood recruitment by criminal grooming gangs in Drogheda, County Louth, I was struck by the title of the old Manic Street Preachers’ song, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”. Over the last forty years Ireland has gradually accommodated itself to the existence of a violently ambitious and morally degenerate underworld class which has repeatedly challenged the authority of the Republic itself. And with a degree of impunity that has proved astonishing to those of us who remember the draconian reaction of various administrations to the existence of “subversives” during the era of the so-called Troubles in the north-east of the country.
Indeed, there have been moments in recent history when it felt like the denizens of Dáil Éireann were more concerned with vilifying those individuals and groups who were pleading for action against the predatory gangsters in their midst than tackling the problem itself. One only has to think back to the heroin epidemic of the 1980s and the enormous resources directed by the State against those who sought to eject drug dealers from their communities. In hindsight how right were those concerned parents and families, and the predictions they made. And how wrong were the establishment politicians who ignored or dismissed their fears.
I have no doubt that the depravity that characterised the murder of young Keane Mulready-Woods is merely a harbinger of things to come. The narco-gangs, convinced of their own power and influence, convinced of the ineffectiveness and weakness of the guardians of law and democracy, will only grow more daring, more willing to seek notoriety and respect through bloody intimidation. And I see little hope of any of the traditional parties of government, ensconced as they are in their affluent soci-economic bubbles, implementing the sort of progressive policies, from education to policing, housing to justice, that will bring about the demise of the drug-dealing cartels now struggling for ascendancy in working-class and lower-middle class communities across the island.