Short story by Louise Phillips. ‘Another Road’ – One young man’s crime against another, done within the perceived protections of middle-class suburban Dublin.
Sometimes in life a place gets changed, not because of new design or the onslaught of age, but because something happens and in the happening a hitherto ordinary space gets cast to someplace else. We are all haunted and intrigued by things in life we cannot either categorise or understand, elements which don’t slot easily into the norm. The horrific, much like the beautiful, changes things, and brings us to a place where everything is the same, but yet different.
That day, as the yellow tape got wrapped around a small piece of tarmac in Templeogue, passers-by looked on and stared, sensing change; a road much like any road, around any corner, was catapulted into the domain of the extraordinary. True horror had visited an otherwise normal place, and in so doing penetrated the heart of its community.
In the early hours of 11 March 2000, a young man, Brain Mulvaney from Firhouse, was killed, his death the result of a vicious beating by another young man, Brian Willoughby from Tempelogue. Others, too, were involved, one a fifteen-year-old boy. It is believed that Brian Mulvaney, having been lured to a quiet spot, was set upon. Breaking free, he ran one hundred yards before being caught, at which point he was repeatedly kicked and beaten. Brian Muvaney was found lying unconscious in the middle of the roadway at The Watercourse, his upper clothing having been torn off by the assailants.
In such a tight-knit community it was inevitable that many people knew someone involved. The news when it came rocked the very soul of an otherwise conventional neighbourhood. This young man’s death seemed an illogical one, not just because it came before its time, but because it came out of nothing. He died because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It embraced that awful fear of every parent, the loss of a child. Life and death and the chaos around us mean that we have all experienced fear, but none of us want to believe that bad things could happen to us, especially not to our sons or daughters.
Had this random act of violence been perpetrated by someone outside the community, someone older, someone whom we could have placed comfortably amongst those that do ‘bad things’, this awful tragedy might not have shaken us and our smug middle-class cosiness to the core.
How could this happen? How could any of our sons cause the death of another? What if Brian Mulvaney hadn’t gone to that party; what if Brian Willoughby hadn’t, as we later learnt, been out on bail;what if either one of them was your son….
That part of Templeogue was a community which had grown since its conception in the early seventies, and it was made up not just of schools, churches, shops and sports clubs, but of people. A place where thirty years earlier young couples chose to buy their first home and then, quite soon after, small children came out to play. Bonds were formed between neighbours that would span a lifetime. When we moved there in the late eighties, it was because we wanted to be part of a community in an area where our family could grow up safe and well. But inevitably, everywhere that human nature plays an active role, a darker element exists.
Over the years there were times when we had all seen and heard things which, given the right element of chaos, could send a situation out of control. Cars blasting with loud music driven by kids too young to know any regrets, groups of youths hanging around street corners, and those nights when loud shouting from outside was best ignored, when we each turned in our beds and sent ourselves to sleep content in the knowledge that our loved ones were safely home.
We put it all down to the verve of the young: pulsating, throbbing, sometimes threatening; it culminated that night in a young man’s death.
When RTE ran the story, they emphasied the fact that the primary suspect came from ‘a good family’. Even now thinking back, it seemed such a strange thing to say. It was as if this small microcosm of humanity in Orwell Park in Templeogue, somehow grasped desperately on to all that middle-class society held dear. This could not happen here. This could not happen amongst ‘good families’.
The evening after the murder, much of the neighbourhood held itself in silence. On the news were pictures of our houses and shops, with the caption ‘Young man murdered in Templeogue’ passing continuously across the screen. Somehow seeing the ordinary, the estate and The Watercourse, through a medium which normally transported Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Simpsons, seemed wrong. I guess we all looked deep inside ourselves and thought about the young men and their families, whilst each of us tried, like in an unfinished bad dream, to imagine how deep must be all their pain.
I pass the road most days. The same road that each of my children walked for eight years on their way to school. I see the tree where flowers are left, a tiny mark on an otherwise normal street. I watch as young boys, unaware of what went before, kick a ball and laugh. I feel a small piece of the horror; I feel a small piece of the pain, locked in a place inextricably linked to the events of that night.
For twenty-five years it was a roadway just like all the others; now it is undeniably changed: no man-made monument nor well-crafted words can fully encompass what makes it different. It just is, because true horror, like true beauty, changes things from the ordinary to the extraordinary. It remains a constant warning to us all not to be complacent, to be aware that, yes, it can happen here, too, and to carry on in the vain hope that another road does not become like this one.
Link to Article from The Sunday World by Niamh O’Connor