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A Martyr to The Cause
health / disability issues |
Sunday July 23, 2006 15:34 by Sean Crudden - impero sean.crudden at iol dot ie Jenkinstown, Dundalk, Co Louth. 087 9739945
The Death of John Carthy
Why was John Carthy so isolated? Why was he one against many? What is the rationale for the Abbeylara siege? Why did John Carthy have to die?
John Carthy was young, a mental patient, a handballer and he resisted authority to the point of death. That is why I have, since the very first day I heard of the tragedy in Abbeylara, a fellow-feeling for John Carthy as well as sympathy for his cause. And I am gratified that Judge Barr has been able to bring to a conclusion, with the publication of his report, an 18m process of inquiry into the killing of John Carthy. I think that this has been a remarkable personal achievement on the judges part. Bertie Ahern has given the judges report an accolade saying it is an "important" report.
I hope to read the report in the fullness of time even though I am already satisfied that the judge stood up to harassment and pressure and clung to the objective of giving a dead man justice and vindication.
Brendan OConnor has a quite well-written article in this mornings Sunday Independent. In the article he seems to me to be making a reasonably sincere effort to try to explain the whys and wherefores of the Abbeylara shooting. He is not just trying to be provocative as on senses he often is. But if you sum up the article he puts the blame for the tragedy on one word "mental illness."
In a sense he is right and the seeds of the tragedy in Abbeylara are the same seeds as those which are at the root of many tragedies which are a daily occurrence e.g. many suicides and the personal repression of many individuals - both women and men - who are classified as mental patients.
Perhaps if "mental illness" were better understood there would be less repression and less tragedy.
The Garda may plead in mitigation of what they did in Abbeylara that they had no training in dealing with a mentally ill person i.e. that in some way they did not understand John Carthy. But where, in any case, would they get information from? There is no evidence, from the little I know, that the psychiatrist or the doctor involved understood John Carthy any better than the gardai.
That is why Eugene Magee has a lot of sympathy from me in his often rehearsed view that the local gardai who knew John Carthy personally would have resolved better the situation that arose in Abbeylara.
My own impression, in general terms, is that the gardai are often quite sympathetic to a mentally ill person - especially if he or she is amenable to control - because they know that the mental health system is often really only exploiting the gardai to get them to do their dirty work for them.
Really and truly this idea that there is someone at the end of a phone who understands "mental illness" is, in my opinion, an - often dangerous - mirage. The truth, in my mind, is that "mental illness" as Brendan OConnor talks about it - and as it is commonly perceived today - is impossible to understand properly.
However I think it is quite easy to understand and get to know mental patients or people who carry the label of mental illness i.e. if you want to. Just give them the respect any human being is entitled to and engage with them.
Candidly I think that mental patients and the mentally ill have a lot to be thankful to John Carthy for and to Judge Barr.