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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
A crime free zone in 2002
Church Bay on Rathlin Island
Crime is rarely heard of on Rathlin

Freedom from the fear of crime is a luxury which few people in modern society enjoy.

But for the 80 hardy souls of Rathlin Island, life remains carefree in a place where houses and cars are seldom locked and where children play in safety.

The boat from Ballycastle on the north County Antrim coast takes under an hour.

For the visitors who come to enjoy the beauty and extraordinary birdlife, there is also a reprieve from crime and as the ramp of the little ferry glides down to meet the slipway at Church Bay, they too can afford to lower their defences.

It's not that serious crime has never happened here but the last murder was more than 300 years ago.

Islander Michael Cecil
Islander Michael Cecil: Could not live anywhere else
Islander Michael Cecil says he could never see himself living anywhere else: "Crime on Rathlin doesn't really exist, there's no murders, no robberies nothing like that, it's very quiet."

It's just a short stroll from the harbour to the island's post office - a vital service for the Rathlin community.

There are no queues here or worries about armed robbery.

The greatest danger is from falling slates around the post box outside. A warning has been scratched on one dislodged in a gale last winter.

It's hard sometimes to distinguish between the abandoned and the parked cars along the track leading from the harbour.

Nowhere to go

Traffic management systems seem a million miles away. So too does car crime.

I pass an unlocked purple saloon with the driver's window rolled down and yes, the keys are in the ignition.

Shopkeeper Carmel Hanaway
Shopkeeper Carmel Hanaway: No worries about theft
But even if you were grasped by the opportunity to drive it away, there is nowhere really to go on an island less than seven miles long and just one mile across.

Carrying out a survey of shop-lifting only takes a few minutes. Dublin born woman Carmel Hanaway runs the island's only store.

The takings are modest but at least she doesn't have to worry about theft.

"There's a lot of young people come in the summer and they are very nice to deal with."


It's marvellous for children and it's a great place to live - it's the way it used to be in other places

Bridie Donaghy
A daily visit to the shop is all part of the easy going island lifestyle. It's a journey little Orla Cecil has already made many times in the pram pushed by her grandmother Bridie Donaghy.

At just ten months of age Orla is still too young to toddle off but the crime-free environment means she will be able to look forward to the sort of freedom which children elsewhere are not likely to enjoy.

"It's marvellous for children and it's a great place to live. It's the way it used to be in other places," said Bridie.

Lunchtime at McCuaig's bar sees farmers, fishermen and tourists congregating. Outside on the terrace the birdwatchers are sipping their drinks and stretching in the autumn sunshine.

The pool table inside can be pushed to one side on Saturday night for young and old to dance The Waves of Tory.

Rathlin harbour
Rathlin harbour - a tranquil setting
But there's never any trouble and just as well. The nearest police station is in Ballycastle.

Down at the harbour, the last ferry of the day is getting ready to leave for the mainland. A man from Essex looks back across the bay and reflects on what he is going back to: "Muggings, drugs, pick-pocketing. It's just getting worse and worse."

As autumn sets in, the visitors will thin out, leaving Rathlin once again to the islanders.

The isolation here is not for everyone but it would surely be a crime if this way of life, free from fear of crime, were ever lost.


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See also:

11 Sep 02 | Cracking Crime
13 Sep 02 | N Ireland
17 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
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