LIMERICK city can now “draw a line in the sand”, following the conviction of John Dundon for the murder of Shane Geoghegan, but Bishop Brendan Leahy has told of how it “irritated” him when Limerick was referred to as the ”crime capital of Ireland”.
Ordained last April, Bishop Leahy said that people would “half-seriously and half-jokingly” refer to the city’s unfair reputation when congratulating him on his appointment.
“It irritated me and yet I had to recognise that criminal violence and social problems have been part of this city’s story and had to be named.
“But they are only part of the story. That’s why I was so pleased to hear someone say to me at an event in Dublin this week, the evening after the conviction: ‘Since yesterday, we know now, Limerick is different’.
“The reality is that those, like me, who get to know Limerick, the true Limerick, love Limerick.
He said the verdict allowed Limerick an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and build on its great potential.
At a vigil Mass in St. Mary’s Church last weekend, the Bishop said that “following the evil intentions and recklessness involved” in the murder of an innocent man, the “gangland rules of silence were overturned by those prepared to speak words of truth and to work for truth and justice”.
His homily came just days after John Dundon became the second person to be found guilty of the murder of the 28-year-old rugby player in a case of mistaken identity.
Alluding to the time in Limerick when gangs and criminal activity was at its height, Bishop Leahy said that “this trial reminded again of the horrible spectre of gang rivalry and crime. We heard of criminality that was lurking all around us in various parts of this city at that time.
Bishop Leahy paid tribute to the collective work of those involved in bringing Shane Geoghegan’s killers to justice.
“Tribute has been paid to the Gardaí, the legal system, the judiciary, and the witnesses for their part in getting us to this point of being able to successfully stand up to criminal behaviour and say: “enough, no more, this is horribly evil; it is not worthy of the dignity of our city”.
The new Bishop said that the conviction gave a “significant signal.
“We can start again. This city can, and is being given a new name, a positive name, a hopeful name. A name it deserves so that in the future, while the scars of our city’s history will remain, we will have gone beyond the wounds of fear and gangland terror, of dark and troubled socio-economic circumstances and divisions.
“In going beyond these wounds, we will learn from our troubles and so be able to help people in their troubles. If we take up this opportunity and build up a sanctuary-city, a people-city, then others will discover hope in us. Instead of being cited as an example of a city in despair, we will be cited as an example of hope.
“For those who feel caught in viscous dynamics of violence, Limerick will indicate the ways of truth, justice and peace;
“For those ensnared in a valley of death, Limerick will be a city of light and life, love and peace.