Mary is a single mother. She has ME and suffers from chronic pain. She gets €20 per week from the State. She has a young teenage son who she describes as having the mind of a five year old. He suffers from depression, drinks a lot, does drugs and is generally messed up. He’s in a regular hospital at the moment but they want him to leave. The psychiatric hospital that he was been treated in won’t take him back because of his involvement in drugs and also because he had a relationship with another patient the last time he was there. To top it all he owes a large sum of money to a drugs dealer. Because he couldn’t pay Mary has to cough up. She has already paid €300 and owes a further €600. The following is a transcription of her conversation with Joe Duffy on last Friday’s Liveline where she is explaining her experience with the Gardai.
Joe. How did you pay money to a drug dealer?
Mary. I got a friend to speak to the drug dealer. I asked the police, what should I do, should I pay it and I was told that I should pay it because they would probably find out where we live and come round either to threaten us or break into our home and steal from us.
Joe. The police told you that?
Joe. (Puzzled and incredulous) Well, you heard it through a third party. (The suggestion here is that the police couldn’t possibly have said such a thing and the ‘third party’ got it wrong.
Mary. No, I went to the police myself.
Joe. (Raised voice and even more incredulous) And they said ‘pay the drug dealer’
Mary. Yes, yes.
Joe. (Totally incredulous, desperately searching for an explanation as to why a police force would give such advice.) Hang on; hang on Mary, surely they said to you, ‘give us the name and address of the person you are alleging is a drug dealer.
Mary. No, no, they didn’t
Joe. They said, ‘pay the drug dealer or they’ll burn your house’?
Joe. (In a loud and emphatic voice) I don’t believe you Mary.
Mary. Yes, absolutely, I was amazed they didn’t want information or to know who the person was.
Joe. And you were willing to supply that information?
Mary. I was willing to give the information.
The key sentence in this conversation is ‘I don’t belive you Mary’. For Joe Duffy, it is simply unbelievable that the Gardai could behave in such a manner. While Joe obviously accepts that ‘some’ Gardai are corrupt, he cannot even consider the possibility that the organization as a body could be corrupt. This ‘appalling vista’ mindset is common at all levels of Irish society including the media.
Take Vincent Browne for example. In recent times he has been analyzing the evidence coming out of the tribunal investigating Garda corruption in Donegal. He expresses astonishment and genuine puzzlement that the police force of this State could act as they did and nobody seems to be too upset. It is totally beyond these two very experienced journalists to make the connection between what is happening in the police force and Irish society in general. Without exception, whenever the lid is lifted on any organization, Government or private, the smell of corruption is overpowering. It is so entrenched in our culture at this stage that when someone like Joe Duffy is brought face to face with it, he can only reply – I don’t believe you Mary.