‘Even if there were no horns protruding from their masked skulls, here were devils force-feeding Una a vision of Dante's inferno’
A beloved gran, an elderly aunt, maybe even the woman who brought you into the world, an Irish matriarch who has spent the better part of a century walking the road of duty, her decency elevating the place she calls home.
Now, imagine the unspeakable evil that allows the pages of her story to be torn asunder and set aflame days before her 94th birthday.
The pitch-dark hush of the pre-dawn witching hour was shattered in rural Roscommon last Monday when feral lowlifes barged into Una Farrell’s home.
In an ever more wearily familiar violation of decency, in a shameless insurgency against accepted norms, six malignant, subhuman brutes doled out the supersized portions of terror that are their malevolent calling cards.
Even if there were no horns protruding from their masked skulls, here were devils force-feeding Una a vision of Dante's inferno.
They tied-up her sons, John and Seamus, a pair of sixty-something country men, rupturing the world of the watching and traumatised Una, a creature born the year before the Wall Street Crash.
Laden down with fiery brutality, they exhibited the hearts of darkness that beat at their diabolical core.
Shouting obscenities, ransacking the rooms, holding a family hostage beneath their own roof, they imposed their vicious worldview on a tranquil Connacht hearth.
They took cash from the shop Una has run in Ballintubber for 65 years, an essential artery facilitating the vital flow of a small community’s lifeblood.
Like pigs at a trough, they gobbled up anything of value, indifferent to the inestimable sentimental value of jewellery that narrated the tale of Una’s near ten decades walking the byways of life.
But the most valuable treasure that they carried off into the ghostly night?
That would be a decent family’s peace of mind pulverised and purloined and driven at speed down a country lane.
Una is the latest of Ireland’s vulnerable, law-abiding class to feel the fist of barbarity slam down on her existence, shattering everything in its path.
A woman who should have been lighting birthday candles as she moved within six years of her 100th birthday instead endures an extinguishing of the light.
Remember, this might be your grandmother, your mother, your neighbour, the kind of people who carried the nation when the burden was heaviest.
Read her story and allow the anger – and the sense of futility - to erupt like a volcano from your molten core.
Consider the reserves of courage and the unbreakable sense of duty which compelled this extraordinary nonagenarian to open her shop to customers the very next day.
That simple act made me sob with what I can only call a sobbing gratitude for the selflessness and absence of self-pity that defined a generation - my own parents generation - who had it hard but kept on keeping on.
Read Una’s evocative reliving of the experience, note the labels of “filth” and “cowards” she affixed to those who despoiled the place where it will not longer be as easy to lay her head each night and find the comfort of sleep.
Her mind cannot compute the badness that allows these people to terrorise and wreak havoc and leave their victims grasping with life-changing post-traumatic stress.
Una's resigned verdict on what happens next will resonate with every victim of unsolved crime.
“Of course they’ll not be caught. Nobody’s ever caught.”
Here’s the thing: gardai know the identity of almost all the cynical, violent, highly-organised gangs who speed across the country’s motorways in the dead of night in high-powered vehicles to ransack and petrify.
But because the career criminal crews know they are essentially untouchable unless caught in the act or in a subsequent chase, they go about their hateful work without fear of recrimination.
Even if caught, they will avail of free legal aid – their escape hatch paid for by the very taxpayer they are stealing from – to secure bail.
And while out awaiting trial, they will strike. Again. And Again. And again. Each act of naked hostility ruining a few more lives.
Essentially they are raising a defiant middle digit to the nation.
Residential burglary is up 33% on 2021, lives are being destroyed on a nightly basis by these monsters of the dark.
We know who is responsible, but the law, as is so often the case, seems more concerned with the rights of the villain than the victim.
So, while hard-working, law-abiding families struggling to make ends meet in a cost-of-living crisis find court summonses for non-payment of TV licences popping through their letterboxes, these domestic terrorists - the term is chosen carefully because it is what they dispense - run free.
Cruising in their flash cars, holidaying in the Costas, sniggering at those who do their best to abide by the rules.
Armed with guns, knives, baseball bats, screwdrivers and malicious intent, devoid of empathy, they roam the land.
They are a cancer, a tumour on the face of Ireland, their malignancy so extreme that it permits them to invade the peaceful sleep of a 93-year-old woman.
Even if it feels like Wild West justice, a surrender to populist mob mentality, sometimes the only legitimate response to such a grotesque convulsion against decency is the one rising to a deafening volume in the back of our minds.
Find them, lock them up…and throw away the key.