Crime rates in America have dropped dramatically since the first wave of modern Irish immigrants arrived in the United States during the late 1980s. In 1990, New York’s murder rate topped 2,000; other cities favored by Irish immigrants, such as Boston and Philadelphia, fared almost as badly.
But for a few parents, brothers and sisters back in Ireland, the recent positive statistics mean little. Compared to Ireland, where crime rates remain relatively low, America’s figures can still shock.
Imagine, then, how dreadful the shock of the long-distance telephone call that comes to relatives back in Ireland in the middle of the night. Perhaps an unfamiliar voice, an unfamiliar accent informing a father or mother that a son has been shot and killed in America.
In the North East, two recent cases remain unsolved of Irish immigrants murdered by gunmen as they lived out their dreams of building a new life in America.
In one, Francis O’Loughlin, an immigrant from Kilkenny, was shot to death in 1998 as he was sat in a bar in Queens, N.Y. A popular figure in Queens Irish community, just prior to his murder O’Loughlin had been speaking to his family about home and his own carpentry business.
In another case, Martin McConigley, a Donegal immigrant was shot dead last September after he gave chase to two gunmen who had just botched a robbery on the Irishman’s construction business. McConigley left behind a young child, a wife and many friends in Philadelphia.
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Both cases have drawn reward money from the respective families, communities and city governments. Both have appeared on national television programs which help track fugitives. Detectives in both cases now fear the suspects may have fled the country, or at least, the cities where the crimes were committed.
Cracking murders takes time, and a little progress seems to have been made. But all this has brought scant relief to the families back in Ireland.
Their sons left with hopes. In both cases, the sons had made a good start for themselves in America only to lose their lives in two senseless crimes. Given the claims of law enforcement success in America’s leading cities, the family frustration is understandable.
"They don’t seem to have one clue where the killer might have gone," Sean O’Loughlin told the Echo. "It’s mighty strange to me that this man walked out the door and no one knows if he turned right or left."
Perhaps with the added incentive of reward money, and the television exposure, detectives can move a little closer to bringing to justice those who have left families mourning their immigrant sons.