With the coming of the Celtic Tiger, the people of Ireland have had economic success laid on them with the subtlety of a hod of bricks falling from a height of thirty feet. For centuries, it was a desperately poor nation, in which the major export was its people, flying away to other places in search of work.
The change has come too quickly for most to absorb. Criticism of the new middle class fills the papers, with stories of hunkering SUVs filling the air with pollution while Ireland struggles to meet its Kyoto targets. Those who don't give enough to charity, those who flaunt their wealth with clothes and holiday homes abroad; there are tales of the homeless ignored, the youth drinking to excess, and it's all coming from a sense of confusion, a notion that times are no longer hard, so how do we live correctly.
With an influx of capital comes an influx of criminals, and gun crimes are on the rise. What we in America accept as part of daily life has crept into a country that is not prepared to handle the side effects of capitalism. The gardai are unarmed, because they were set up that way in the 1920's, and many wish to cling to an antique notion of respect for the law acting as a deterent. Americans are aware of guns, of criminals with guns, and would not chase an armed robber unless they, too, had a gun. Our policemen carry weapons, always ready for use, and therein lies the source of our respect for the law.
The new postmaster in Kilkenny, lacking the street sense of an average Yank, responded to the robbery of his sub-station by chasing after the criminal who brandished a gun and robbed the post office. He fought the man, the gun went off, and Alan Cunniffe was shot in the gut and died. This tragic incident will become a part of the learning curve, as a once impoverished nation finds a way to deal with a changing world. Shop owners and employees will be cautioned to not go after an armed robber, to not confront someone with a gun. They will be instructed on how to best respond to a threat that follows on the heels of affluence.
Everyone enjoys their newly created wealth, the ability to have central heating and a brand-new winter coat, in contrast to the old days. At the same time, people reminisce about the past, about knowing all the neighbors and watching out for one another. Many see that they are becoming more like the Americans, with the same problems facing large American cities. Some things are lost when prosperity settles down to stay. Innocence is one item that, sadly, is fading away.