Finally, today, the person who directed the murder of Shane Geoghegan has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison. It has taken nearly five years to nail John Dundon for this crime, but at last he has been unequivocally identified as the person who gave the orders for the murder.
I can remember clearly the night Ireland played Canada at a friendly in Thomond Park five years ago. I was there myself, and feeling so proud of our new rugby stadium until later that evening word came through that the scumbags had yet again sullied the name of our town. I wanted to kill somebody myself, knowing as I do what a wonderful town this is, full of creativity and life, but ultimately I felt a sense of futility. What are we going to do about these ignorant, violent fools in our midst, people with no allegiance or feeling for our community. Isn’t it time to eject them from our community as we would a crowd of invaders?
We turned out in our thousands to protest against this pestilence.
Most of us engaged in a city-wide art project, refusing to succumb to the soul-destroying brutality of an illiterate fool like John Dundon.
Some of us even climbed Everest in support of the Shane Geoghegan Trust.
We didn’t give in to these useless lowlifes. We refused to let our city be defined by ignorant thugs. And we refused to submit to lazy journalists who prefer clichés and stereotypes to real thinking.
While it’s no consolation to Shane’s family and friends, at least today we saw the ignorant scumbag behind his murder sent to jail for life, however long that might be. Personally, I don’t wish Dundon a long incarceration. Just a miserable one.
You never played sports and yet you climbed Mount Everest?
No. Never. I was useless.
And you never did athletics but you climbed Everest.
No. I couldn’t run to save my life.
You climbed Everest but you never trained?
I was the laziest kid in school. I smoked and I drank.
So how did you end up climbing the highest mountain in the world?
Well, I climbed Carrauntouhill in 2009 and that was when I got the bug.
Wait a minute. Even though it’s the highest peak in Ireland, Carrauntouhill is a pimple on a blister on the small toe of Everest. It’s only 3,400 feet while Everest is 29,000 feet high.
Yeah, well then I started training. I did a couple of marathons.
He did a couple of marathons, the laziest kid in the school, as if you just get out of bed one morning and decide to run 26 miles. He doesn’t seem to think there’s anything strange about it. He’s chilled. He’s laid back. As far as I can tell, Mark thinks it’s perfectly normal to go from being a lazy unfit smoker to a marathon runner and mountaineer, and when I call him a mountaineer I’m not talking about the leisurely hills we like to describe as mountains in Ireland. I’m talking about Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest of the Andes –the tallest mountain in the western hemisphere, at 22,841 feet, because that’s where he went next, after scampering around some puny 9,000-foot Polish hills for fun.
Although Aconcagua isn’t what climbers call a technical mountain, requiring ropes, pitons and ice-axes, it still claims several lives every year through altitude and cold, hazards many amateur climbers underestimate. Mark climbed this mountain to acclimatise and prepare himself for the assault on Everest, which makes perfect sense until you remember that this is a guy who had never climbed so much as a step-ladder until two years earlier.
Mark is sipping his Coke in the sun, laughing at the ludicrous, uninformed, naive questions I’m asking him, and I suppose there’s an element of being star-struck about me. When am I next likely to be chatting with someone who got to the top of the world’s highest mountain?
Even though Everest is the highest, they say that K2 and Annapurna are far more difficult climbs technically, and Mark agrees. He points out that another Limerickman, Ger McDonnell, lost his life descending from K2 in 2008, because he refused to abandon injured fellow climbers, and this brings up another abiding question: the issue of high-altitude ethics. Mountaineering is big business. You can pay a company as much as €100,000 to lead you to the top of Everest, and stories abound of teams on the way up finding injured climbers and abandoning them to die so that they can complete the ascent and get their photos at the summit.
Mark thinks this attitude is not so much a characteristic of Europeans as of American climbers, determined to get their money’s worth, and he offers the example of a leader who gave his team a choice: We can save this man or we can continue. Which is it to be? All but the American decided to go back down and save the injured climber. The mountain will still be there next year. As a consequence of that decision, the company lost business.
Did Mark ever come across these abandoned climbers as he made his ascent?
Only Green Boots, he replies, referring to Indian climber Tsewang Paljor who died on the mountain in 1996 at the age of 28. We reflect for a minute on the thought that this young man’s family are aware of his location but will never be able to bring his remains home, even though he lies in full view of the endless Everest trekkers. Green Boots has become a landmark on the way up and down the mountain and while some climbers have expressed the ambition to give the young man a more dignified resting place, no one has so far succeeded.
What about the more mundane, day-to-day things?
Why, for example, is Camp Three only 580 metres from the top? Simple. Even though it might seem to be only a stone’s throw from the summit, this is as high as any human can go without stopping. The last trudging steps are one foot in front of the other. Every single step is hard work. Before you set off on the final assault, you have to crawl out of the tent. That’s hard work. You have to pull on your crampons. That’s a huge job. You look at your ropes and lines twenty feet away and you can’t figure out how you’ll ever manage to walk over there and collect them.
You are shagged. You’re at the absolute limit of your endurance. One footstep is murder, and yet you’re now facing another six or seven hundred, but not in a straight horizontal line, hard enough though that might be. You’re going up, and with every step the air gets thinner and the oxygen gets rarer. You are at the outer limits of what a human being can achieve. You might easily die right now from pulmonary oedema or stroke. It’s no accident that there are no human habitations above 18,000 feet. We are not built to survive at this altitude.
When you get near the top of Everest, there are three steps.
The First Step is a field of huge boulders. You climb over them, even though you have not a gasp of breath left in your body.
The Second Step is a forty-metre climb. That’s 330 feet with the last sixteen or so vertical.
You get on the ladder, Mark says.
Ladder. Is that a mountaineering term? I ask.
No, he says. That’s a ladder. Some Chinese guys put a ladder on the wall.
A ladder, I’m thinking. On the side of a cliff at the top of Mount Everest.
You pull yourself over the top, Mark says, and you’re looking down a sheer drop of sixteen thousand feet.
I’m fully focussed. As someone who won’t climb a wall without good reason, I can see the problem here, and then he describes how he meets a descending team. He waves them through and they do nothing. He waves them through again and still they do nothing. Eventually, through Irish politeness, he unclips from the ladder and lets them past, which seems like an utterly insane act, but what can he do? Later he gets talking to an extremely experienced climber who unclips all the time.
Why not? There’s no way you’re letting go of that ladder.
The Third Step is an easy 10-metre climb, after which you’re on the summit, at the very top of the Himalayas, looking out over the whole world. You have twenty minutes to record your experience before you have to get back down, and you’d better be quick.
This is a harsh activity, not something to be undertaken lightly. This mountain, and all the others above 18,000 feet, are places where you will die. Nothing would persuade me to go up there and anyone who does is both a madman and a hero in my eyes. What the hell is that? Why did you climb the mountain? In Mark Quinn’s case, the answer is the ancient one: because it was there.
I love it. I love the talk, the explanation and the passion exuded by this lad who stood right on top of the biggest bastard of a mountain in the world. There he is, standing on the summit of the world’s highest mountain and he’s looking around at all the other countries spread out before him. Nepal. India.. China. He tries to take in as much as he can in the few minutes allotted to him before he has to descend again. He has a camera and he does his best to take a few shots while someone is screaming at him to get moving. He switches to video and does a quick panorama of a scene that he’ll never see again, and then he begins the long, hard descent, with no certainty of survival.
What happens when you get back down to Base camp? You celebrate, of course, and you contact your loved ones. You remind yourself not only that you made it, but also that others did not.
In Mark’s case, you remind yourself that his charity, the Shane Geoghegan Foundation, has made another stride forward, but strangely, there remains an enigma. When you review the video, you notice there, right at the summit of Mount Everest, a beautifully-made casket, and you ask yourself a question that will forever remain unanswered. What’s in the box at the top of the world’s highest mountain? Who made it and what did they put in it? Who carried it to the summit and why did they do that? It’s up there now.
Will we ever find out? Who knows? Maybe it was never meant to be.
Later, Mark finds out why he had to unclip on the ladder. The climbers are returning after losing another team member — an Irish guy too, as it turns out. There are no certainties on the mountain. You live or you die. That’s the deal.
I went to see the Shane Geoghegan exhibition in Limerick City Hall. It’s truly astonishing. Somewhere in the middle of that throng is a thing I made myself in a hamfisted way, as did twenty thousand other people who wanted to help.
There are twenty thousand tiny figurines in this installation. Some are miniature works of art, while others, like my own, are to put it at its kindest, well-meaning, but it doesn’t matter. Every one of these little creatures was made in honour of a fine young fellow, and collectively they make a statement that we citizens of Limerick embrace a spirit of healing and of mutual support.
We were always that way, and the people who ended Shane’s life were always outsiders despite living in our midst.
We reject them. They are not us and they are not of us.
Shane’s family and friends set up their stall week after week, inviting people to mould little fellows for the tiny army of peace and their determination has paid off.
The numbers grew and grew. I don’t know how they kept track of all the little creatures, but they did. They collected the fresh clay works, fired them and stored them safely until they were ready, and now they have their exhibition.
Look at this. Click on the image to see some more pictures of the exhibition.
The strange thing about the Geoghegan installation is that the miniature world has districts and neighbourhoods. Some are dark and angry while others are optimistic. Some city blocks are filled with frowning, menacing people while others are frivolous, dancing little mutants.
This deserves world recognition. If somebody could put a pile of bricks in the Tate and call it Art, why not give the Pitch for Shane the exposure it deserves?
Shane Geoghegan was shot dead by a criminal who mistook him for somebody else.
His death united Limerick, a city sick and tired of lowlife scumbags, just like every other Irish town.
Shane’s family decided that they would not be defeated by the negative mindset that motivated his killer and so they set up A Pitch for Shane. Drawing their inspiration from the Chinese Terracotta Army, constructed for the necropolis of emperor Qin, they decided to create a miniature army, created by Limerick people. And so, they set themselves up at the side of the road, in the Milk Market and everywhere Limerick people gather. In a very simple gesture, they invited ordinary people to make clay figurines according to their gifts. I made one myself and it looked like a dead squid, but at least I tried. Since then, the town has been filled with clay figures, every one made by a citizen of Limerick, every one made with care and love. This is the antithesis of the negative and ignorant movement that our town has witnessed, and illustrates the reality that our town is filled with caring and concerned people.
It reinforces the reality that the idiots are a very small, though admittedly violent, minority.
And what an achievement they made. Thousands and thousands of Limerick people made their point by making little figurines. Some were skilled and others, like me, were ham-fisted, but all expressed their genuine care and their rejection of violence. This project tells the violent fools that they have no place in our society.
The project went further though. Just as Ireland wishes Europe to take control of our national troubles, this is a nationwide problem and it’s about time the government confronted it.
Limerick is as great town, full of decent people, like Mark Quinn, who climbed Everest to raise awareness of the Shane Geoghegan Trust, and also full of fine musicians who have decided to hold an event in Dolans Warehouse on this coming Friday, in support of the charity.
The exhibition of this terracota army for peace is tomorrow in Limerick city council at 6pm. Go there if you can and support it.
If you go to Dolans on Friday, you’ll be entertained by an outstanding selection of local musicians, committed to supporting the Shane Geoghegan Trust. Cities across our country must stand up and assert the positives about our society. Go to Dolans. Don’t be such a miserable git. Go to Dolans and support this fine initiative.
Go on. You know it’s the right thing.
Go on. Go on. Go on.
This is Limerick’s statement, and a fine statement it is.
The prosecution in the Shane Geoghegan murder trial failed to convince a jury that the accused was guilty. Therefore, the case against Barry Doyle collapsed even though he gave detailed descriptions of the killing during police interviews.
The defence argued, successfully, that this confession was the result of threats, inducements and coercion, and was therefore unreliable, given the absence of any corroborating evidence such as video, DNA or ballistics.
I don’t like it. I want someone to go down for the murder of an innocent man, but I have to accept this result, angry though I am that nobody has been convicted for the killing.
There’s no point blaming the defence team. Their job is to make sure the law applies fairly. It was the prosecution who failed to convince a jury that they had proven their case beyond reasonable doubt.
That standard of proof exists so that you and I don’t go to jail for things we didn’t do, and much though we’d like to, we can’t start applying different standards to different people, depending on how suspicious we are of them, or where they come from.
Much though I want someone to go to jail for this crime, it needs to happen on the basis of a cast-iron case. In this country, we don’t yet jail people on the grounds of gross suspicion, no matter how much we think they deserve it. When we start doing things like that, we’ll know we’re in a police state.
We need better detection, better evidence and better prosecution.
Several members of Garryowen FC attended the hearing and I’m told that they all wanted to punch the accused. This of course is entirely unacceptable, since the man was not convicted of anything, but I gather it had to do with his facial expression when it was announced that the jury failed to agree.
I wandered into the market this morning, a little the worse for wear after last night’s outing to Dolans for the gig in aid of Pieta House. When people say “a little”, they mean “a lot”, so perhaps I should start again.
I staggered across the road and hammered on my neighbour’s door. Can you take me into town?
Why? Where’s your car?
Dunno. One of my children has it. I hope.
Do you know what time it is now?
About 10? Ish?
It’s one o’clock. You’re just out of bed, aren’t you?
True. But I’m showered and scented. As fragrant as the buds in May.
You’re like the shipping forecast.
Visibility low. Rising slowly.
I didn’t wander into the market. I blundered into the market, where I came across these women with a big pile of clay sculptures in front of them.
Somebody handed me a lump of clay and instructed me to make a little man.
What’s this? Tell me more.
Isn’t that just the maddest thing you ever saw in your life? Every single one made by a member of the public. Every one different.
But it gets better.
You see, these folks are all related to Shane Geoghegan, murdered in 2008 by drug-dealing scum who mistook him for another of their kind. Now, unlike the people who killed him, Shane was a fine young fellow who brought love and happiness into the lives of all who knew him, and who enriched everybody he touched.
Therefore, his friends and relations have chosen to celebrate his life in this original way. The hope is that, with your help, 10,000 terracotta figures will fill a public space in Limerick, for Shane. The figures will all be between 4 and 6 inches high. Because each one is hand-made, they’ll all have different faces and they’ll stand shoulder to shoulder to form a tight group. A little army of resistance against low-lifes and scumbags. Once the models have all been made, they’ll be allowed to dry out for several weeks and then fired in a kiln , eventually ending up like the light brown ones in the picture.
If you want to help with this effort, check out the Facebook page for more information. The folks can supply the clay and the guidance needed to make your terracotta team members.
As the girls said, we can smile because he lived.
I’m afraid the thing I made for them looked like ET after a bad motorcycle accident.
Shane Geoghegan, a fine young Limerickman, was murdered last year by a scumbag who mistook him for a fellow drug-dealing lowlife. The town came out in protest and the whole country recoiled with disgust at the actions of the mutant fools who ordered and carried out the murder.
Subsequently, another honest young man, Roy Collins, was murdered by the same scum.
We’re still waiting for action from the government.
Yesterday, speaking at Garryowen FC, the rugby club of which Shane was a proud and respected member, Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn announced that his English Premiership club will play a charity match in Limerick next year in support of the Shane Geoghegan Trust, which offers children access to sporting and creative activities as alternatives to anti-social and criminal behaviour.
Quinn said that Sunderland would be willing to play a charity game in Limerick at the beginning of next season but this raises its own questions. Who and where? Limerick FC are just not good enough to make it interesting. It could turn out to be a match between Sunderland and an Ireland selection in Thomond Park, which would be appropriate. Shane was murdered the same night that Munster played Canada at the newly-refurbished stadium.
I was there that night and it was a great occasion. Our town was at its best, but was again dragged down by the moronic savage underclass that our PC society tolerates as if they had somehow earned the rights we so freely offer them.
Criminal gangs are going to be confronted in the only way they understand: head first and without mercy.
The Criminal Justice Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2009 contains measures to convict organised criminals on the evidence of a senior police officer when that evidence is corroborated by covert surveillance. There will be no need for juries or civilian witnesses who can be intimidated.
I have been saying for a long time now that these gangs are directly challenging the authority of our State. They feel no allegiance to our society, they contribute nothing. They kill our citizens. They terrorise our towns. They poison our peaceful lives.
They are subversives.
And yet, these people who hold nothing but contempt for our society and its laws are the first to hide behind the protections that were drawn up for compliant, contributing citizens.
I have always believed that these people are enemies of the State, and just as we wouldn’t offer elaborate protections to an enemy in a foreign country, we should likewise offer no such protection to an enemy within.
The murder of Roy Collins brought 5,000 people onto the streets of Limerick last week to demand action. That march was not to send a message to the criminals, who are nothing but illiterate thugs. It was to remind our legislators that their first duty is to us, the law-abiding citizens of Ireland.
There’s only one way to deal with these savages and that’s to crush them. Show them no mercy, as they have shown no mercy to their victims and no respect for the land that supports them.
In the past, I would have been very disturbed at the possibility of the Gardaí receiving new powers, and I’m still worried because I don’t believe our police force possesses enough professionalism. But on the other hand, these criminals threaten to destroy the fabric of our society.