Saturday, December 09, 2006

Murder in our midst-Sad farewell to Alan

I always said I'd try to blog it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yesterday and today have had very little of the first, but far too much of the second and third. The murder of Alan Cunniffe, less than a quarter of a mile from our front door has left the city in shock, and me as a private citizen, and as a public representative deeply upset. In my 41 years so far, I've never personally known a person who was murdered until now, and I've also rarely known somebody with whom I struck up a genuine friendship in such a short time.

Alan was of course the son of a wonderful Roscommon man. Tom was the first Kilkenny City person I met when I was 'courting'. A trip to Tom's shop in John's Green resulted in my Kerry accent being immediately detected. Thus started a half-hour conversation about the 1980 All-Ireland final when Roscommon had thrown us the fourth of the 4 in a row. It also began a 15 year pattern of chats about football, which got more frequent when I moved here 5 years ago. You couldn't help liking Tom, and it was no surprise that Alan turned out to be a chip off the old block when he took over the reins last year, after Tom's early death from cancer.

The last 24 hours have been surreal. I had my last of almost daily chats with Alan on Thursday night when I picked up a few bits and pieces from the shop. In one of those moments which typified Alan, he sold a lotto ticket to the customer before me, and pressed a wrong button giving extra by mistake. He said he would buy the mistaken ticket himself, but I offered to buy my first lotto ticket in years. As I was the last customer of the night, Alan thanked me profusely for covering his mistake as he saw it. We had a brief chat and Alan asked after Mar and the kids, as always. Only a few nights earlier, Alan had spotted me walking away from the locked shop door a couple of minutes after closure at 9 o' clock. He immediately ran to reopen for the bottle of wine I wanted, not to make more money, but to provide a service to a customer. That summed him up.

I didn't believe yesterday that Alan would pass away in the few hours he was battling in St. Luke's Hospital. Talking to friends and neighbours today, they stressed the huge efforts made to save Alan's life. As for why Alan engaged his killer, who are we to know what entered Alan's mind in those fatal seconds or minutes. What I do know for sure is that protecting his family business, his workers interests, and standing up for all that is best in life was what Alan was all about.

This weekend is a tear-filled one for all of us in Kilkenny who were lucky enough to have known Alan as a friend, neighbour, and business man with a heart of gold. To his Mum Muriel, his brothers Declan, James, Enda and Thomas and to his sisters Anne, Muriel and Emily my heart-felt sympathy. Gan aon dabht oireann an sean ráiteas do Thomás Ó Criomhthain do Alan-'Ni bheidh a leithéid aris ann'. Slán go fóill Alan, go gcifimid a chéile aris.


Councillor Seamus Ryan said...

Sean,this was indeed a terrible tragedy for everyone concerned. Our sympathies today go with the family and friends of Alan Cunniffe RIP - Seamus

Anonymous said...

Hi Sean

A fitting tribute to a true citizen of Kilkenny. I think the whole City is in shock. Well said, the City Council should honour Alan. Call the square outside the shop after him would be a fitting tribute

Anonymous said...

It just proves the asylum process needs significant tightening up and also raises the question of closing down these ghost English schools in Dublin which allows many people to come here unchecked which in this case the murderer did and then claimed asylum.