After woman cycling near her home was killed by a stolen car questions about what is motivating young people's involvement in joyriding?

'Today Tonight' retraces the events that led to the death of Bridget Fitzpatrick, a sixty two year old widow who was killed in a joyriding incident.

On the Monday night a car stolen from a factory near Lusk was driven in the direction of Dublin, and detected by Gardaí at the Santry by-pass.  

Bridget Fitzpatrick aged sixty two, the widow of a Garda and a voluntary nurse from Artane was cycling near her home when she was struck by the speeding car that hurled her through the windscreen onto the floor of the car. She remained there seriously injured until the joyriders, who by that time were being pursued by Gardaí, drove at speed through residential streets and crashed into a wall on Castle Avenue in Clontarf.  

Bridget Fitzpatrick was pronounced dead on admission to the Mater Hospital. Two youths have been charged with her manslaughter. In the wake of this horrific event 'Today Tonight’ reporter Emily O’Reilly asks 

What sort of young people could do this? 

Fr Peter McVerry, SJ (Society of Jesus) lives in Ballymun and works with young people involved in so called joyriding incidents. He explains how growing up in an environment of poverty and disadvantage has a huge effect on many young people, especially early school leavers.  

Becoming involved in illegal activity, starting with petty crime, gives them access to money and a break from the monotony of their daily life. It is very difficult to break free from this way of life, because without it the future means.

Going back to boredom, going back to poverty...an absolutely meaningless life for very many of them.

While Fr Peter McVerry in no way condones the behaviours or actions of joyriders, he maintains that they do feel remorse when they are responsible for tragic deaths such as Mrs Fitzpatrick’s, but are unable or unwilling to deal with their feelings and putting on a facade to the rest of the world is their way of coping with it.  

Simply locking them up is not an effective way of dealing with the problem either, as the current prison system means offenders are even more alienated from society when they are released. A deeper look at the issues is what is required,  

What makes young people rob cars, rob money, get into crime, we’ve got to look at those sort of questions and tackle the fundamental underlying needs. 

On the question of the media’s role in bringing public attention to the issue of joyriding, Fr McVerry says that when certain crimes committed by teenagers are reported in the newspapers, they do in fact experience a sense of importance and an elevation in social status among their peers,  

They cannot get that sense of importance anywhere else.

Ultimately we need to bear in mind that if it was not for all the benefits that many of us have experienced, such as our upbringing, family support and education, our lives could be completely different,

If I had grown up in the conditions that I see some of the young people growing up, I could now be up in St Pat’s on a charge such as this...any of us could be.

This episode of ‘Today Tonight’ was broadcast on 20 June 1985. The reporter is Emily O’Reilly.