Our fire service and Garda do a great job
Last Friday week a young woman knocked at my door. It was clear she was agitated.
She quickly told me that she was worried about a man living in a house across the road. She explained that she had looked through the stained glass window in the hall door and thought she saw a figure lying in the hallway.
I went over and yes, it seemed as if there were someone on the floor. Another neighbour called the emergency services. Within five to eight minutes a fire tender arrived. Gently and kindly they asked one or two questions but with great speed they had the door open within seconds and yes, inside, on the floor of the hallway my neighbour lay dead. Quickly a Garda car arrived followed by a doctor and then the body was removed to hospital.
The man had lived in that house most of his life. After school he had gone to university, where he studied Spanish, English and history. He taught in Ireland and Spain for a few years. As a boy he enjoyed playing football. But over the last many years he has lived a solitary lifestyle. He was in his late 50s and was regularly seen out walking. He seldom if ever acknowledged a greeting when one passed him on the road. He was a kind man and was generous to anyone who called to his door looking for help.
It was my first time to see at close range the emergency service in operation. I was amazed and flabbergasted at their modus operandi. They were at the scene within minutes and they did everything so quickly, so gently and so kindly. They used a battering ram to break down the door but they did it in such a professional way that little damage was caused to the door and hardly a sound to be heard.
There must have been four or five of them on the job and each one knew exactly what to do. And then when the Garda arrived they complemented one another with such ease. A garda sat me down and asked me about the man. I was struck by her kindness and gentleness but all the time so professional. It was a highly efficient operation. Impressive.
I was in a state of shock for the next day or two. As it happened two days later I had to officiate at a tragic funeral service, which meant I may have been more tired than usual when I turned on the radio to hear a person moan and groan about some particular aspect of Irish life. And then a large number of complainers called into the show. It sounded as if they were feeding off one another. That's what's great about the radio. You can turn it off, which is exactly what I did.
I began to think of the Garda and the firemen and the great job I saw them do. Of course there's much to complain about in Ireland but is there not a surfeit of complaining at times. Is it possible that it has become a small industry? Are we living in an era of entitlement?
I'm not slow to criticise. Maybe I've learned a lesson. I consider myself most fortunate to be able to write this column and say thank you to our fire service and our Garda, whose members I saw do a great job. Thank you. It was that mix of efficiency and kindness that impressed me. And all done without any sense of fuss.