The devastated family of Matthew Healy, the “kind” and “gentle” 89-year old who was brutally beaten to death in the Mercy Hospital in Cork must now be enduring a living hell.
Local people say he was a clever man, a retired farmer from Berrings, with a deep knowledge of local history.
All of us, looking at the photograph of Matthew with his smart jacket and his lovely smile, are imagining our own fathers in this terrifying, unspeakable situation. We are imagining the fear and the terror and wishing that, somehow, this evil and inhuman act could be undone.
It is unthinkable. A pensioner described as “the loveliest man”, a father of four who had lost his wife in recent weeks, was in a hospital ward, a place where he should have been guaranteed safety and healing.
Now he is dead, and we are told a much younger man who Mr Healy did not know, has been arrested for his brutal killing.
We don’t know the suspect’s name yet, but its been reported that the man was previously involved in criminal behaviour that also “terrorised” an elderly woman.
He received a suspended sentence for that crime. Why was that? Why would anyone who terrorised an older person not have to serve time? What message are we sending to violent, unstable people when we say that this behaviour doesn’t warrant jail?
The suspect was also apparently known to Gardaí for other offences such as robbery and assault. Yet he was in a general ward with vulnerable people, and now the catastrophic consequences have left a family shattered.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation have offered their sympathies to Mr Healy’s family and have called for a full security audit of every Irish hospital, saying that such an audit has not been carried out since 2016.
But will an audit even begin to examine some of the questions we need to ask of ourselves, for Matthew Healy and for all vulnerable people.
Why does Ireland seem to have become a more dangerous and sometimes horrifying place? Are we, imagining ourselves to now be more progressive and compassionate, ignoring these deeply unsettling trends.
This is now a murder case, and little can be said until the facts are clear and a case is heard, but no-one will disagree that Matthew Healy deserved to be safe and comforted in his hospital bed and what happened to him instead should make us ask some very hard questions as to what is happening in our society.
All we can do for his family now is pray that they can find comfort in their lovely memories of their Dad, and from the esteem and respect that his community had for him.
May his gentle soul rest in peace.