A powerful speech made on the steps of St Peter’s Church in Drogheda on Saturday afternoon marked the end of the Standing Together rally and called on parents to open up lines of communications with their children to ensure they do not become involved in criminal activity.
A parent, Mary, took to the microphone after Mayor Paul Bell’s closing remarks – a late addition to the line-up of speakers at the event that was attended by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and a number of party leaders including Mary Lou McDonald and Micheal Martin.
But it was not the politicians who Mary hoped to reach with her remarks. Instead it was the 5,000 strong crowd and those further afield. She explained that she had originally been asked to speak at the event but declined, fearing for her children.
“Earlier on this week, I was asked to speak here today and I said no because I was afraid. I said that I was afraid for my kids,” she told the crowd, to rapturous applause, a clear indication of the crowd’s appreciation for her bravery in speaking up.
“But, y’know what, I was standing down in the crowd and I’m not afraid anymore. I’m a parent. I don’t know anything about politics but I do know one thing. All of the politicians standing here today are standing with us and I’m not going to have a go at any politician because I don’t really know anything about politics.
“I did have a go at a poor reporter earlier on, just because I was frustrated. I am standing up here on behalf of all the parents out there because we need to stand up for our teenagers. I listened to the news before I came down here today and four times I heard about four different 17-year-olds who had been involved in one way of another in crime of different sorts.”
She was referring to the murder of Keane Mulready-Woods – the culmination thus far of the deadly feud in Drogheda – , the charge of a 17-year-old in Cork over the murder of Cameron Blair in Cork and the death of a 17-year-old in Clondalkin in the early hours of Saturday when a car he was the sole occupant in collided with a van. It is understood the teenager had become to the attention of Garda officers shortly before the collision.
“These are our kids,” she continued. “We have to empower our kids. We can’t wait for government or politicians. We’re parents and we’re sending our kids to school for 5-6 hours every day and we’re sending them to football clubs, Gaelic clubs to every kind of club every evening during the week. We have to make sure those kind of clubs have the resources to talk to kids.
“I don’t see many teenagers here today but I know there are some because I spoke to some on the Bridge of Peace. I don’t know if they’re afraid, I don’t know if they think we’re a bunch of old fogeys who don’t know what we’re talking about. We need to listen to our kids, we need to listen to their fears,” she continued.
“We need to listen to what they want from every single one of us as parents, as teachers. I don’t know anything about politics. I’m a parent and I’m a healthcare assistant. I look after our older people but I also want to look after our young people.”
Mary referenced the Taoiseach in her speech to the crowd on West Street. He was stood just yards away. She said his recent comments that crime doesn’t pay must be made forcefully to young people by talking to them.
“We need to empower our young people and let them know that crime doesn't pay. ”
- Concerned parent in Drogheda
“Young people can’t see that. Young people can’t see that if they want the lovely clothes and they want the few bob and be like the fellas in town that nobody wants to mess with. They can’t see it the way we as parents or as older people see it. We need to empower our young people and let them know that crime doesn’t pay. T
“The only way we can empower them is by talking to them but also by listening to them.
Mary concluded by saying she had suggested to Mayor Bell earlier last week that the town’s young young people should have been invited to talk while the older people stood back and listened.
In this report, the quotes refer to a reporter that Mary had encountered prior to the rally on the Bridge of Peace. That reporter was LouthNow.ie Editor-In-Chief Barry Landy.
“As local councillors assembled at the front of the rally with the large Standing Together rally, I took it upon myself to position myself to take some photos. There were other journalists and photographers milling around too. There was a lot of media activity with party leaders arriving sporadically and subsequently large media scrums gathering around them at their appearance.
“After I had taken my photos, I noticed a woman walking towards me. This, it transpired, was Mary. She seemed bothered about something. Not angry, but certainly flustered in a sense. She started by telling me what she was about to say wasn’t necessarily for publication.
“She told me that the media, as a whole of which I was the proxy in this moments, were focusing all our attention on the wrong people. Instead of falling over the politicians, she said, we should be seeking out and speaking to teenagers. How do they feel, she pondered. Wouldn’t it be worth finding out.
“Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback. Not by the point Mary was making, she was right, there was no doubt. But merely by the confrontation itself. I listened, nodded and told her I agreed with her. The people who live this, who are most in danger of falling into its grip, they should be heard.
“Mary said her piece and left. It was only approximately an hour later when she took to the microphone on the steps of St Peter’s Church did I realise who had accosted me. I was glad she did and now standing just a yard or two away, I listened intently. I hope everyone else did too.
“Mary admitted she had a go at a “poor reporter” in her speech. I’m no such thing. Don’t be a stranger.”