Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.
This column appeared in the edition published 8th February 2011.
A recent horror story situated just one hour from Carlow town, numbed and deeply shocked me. This story regrettably we have become accustomed to regarding Calcutta and the streets of Mumbai. This true story is a national disgrace and a terrible injustice. We must never become desensitised when it comes to such tragedy.
A young Dublin mother of two died of hypothermia during last January’s cold snap after the city council turned off her heating, an inquest has heard. Rachel Peavoy (30) of Shangan Road, Ballymun, Dublin, was found dead in her flat on January 11th, 2010. The pathologist found she had suffered hypothermia. Ms Peavoy had last spoken to her mother, Celine, the day before she was found dead. She had asked her mother to mind her sons, Leon and Warren, and said she was turning her phone off because she couldn’t sleep.
The next day after numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact her, her brother Leon Peavoy and friend Jacqueline Johnston let themselves into her flat. Ms Johnston found the body of her longtime friend in the main bedroom frozen to death. A recent inquest heard how Dublin City Council had turned off the heating in Ms Peavoy’s flat. The single mother had contacted the council about it but was told the heating would not be turned on as a number of flats around her were empty and because regeneration was ongoing.
Dr Craven told the inquest that Ms Peavoy’s flat was “perilously cold” during the bad weather spell last January when Dublin was covered in snow. Calling for an inquiry, he said this was a case where “a young woman with no other system disorder died of hypothermia” and where there was “ample evidence in relation to the heating not working”.
This beautiful mother should not be dead. Her unfortunate circumstance defined Rachel to a life of poverty and abandoned her to the margins. I was deeply moved by her innate maternal love. Asking her mother to take her two children, surely was motivated by care and compassion, if she did not do this Leon and Warren would also be dead. I recently wrote about a young couple living in a very big house but only able to heat one room. This reality is felt in perhaps every village and town throughout the country.
I cannot but pay attention to our littered poles these days. Images of good people pledging reform and change. I hope that this horror story will be to the foremost of building a more just and equitable society. I am tired of the two-tiered system that has been enabled and facilitated by successive governments in this country. A system where those who ‘have’ inherit opportunity and those who ‘have not’ are destined to the margins and the minimum.
My faith in Jesus Christ challenges me. Jesus embraced the margins and was a prophet of change. In our reflections and discerning how we want to govern and function as a society our faith must also be consulted. Everyone has the right to be on the same playing field. May we embrace the margins and may those who ‘have not’ be given renewed opportunity to truly achieve.