Anti-social boys

Feb 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland

The fall of snow, gone from roads and pavements by lunchtime, seems to have been sufficient to have closed a local secondary school. A group of male adolescents clustered near the traffic lights, snowballing passing cars and lorries:  a twenty-something man stopped to remonstrate with them and met a volley of abuse; a woman in a little red Nissan, who stopped, met obscenities and close range snowball hits on her car.  What was to be done?

Call the Guards? What would they be able to do?  Nothing.

Nobody ever does anything.

The graffiti goes unchecked, despite a minor clause in a criminal justice bill prohibiting the sale of aerosol to persons under the age of twenty-one being all that is necessary to prevent most defacement of the city.

The criminal damage is accepted as routine.  The shiny glass and steel bridge at the DART station is slowly becoming plywood and steel as panel after panel of glass is kicked out.

The broken bottles and the fast food wrappers and the vomit on city pavements have become part of the landscape.

“It happens in every country”, I was told.

Well, no, actually, it doesn’t.

In France, the petty vandalism that is rife here is entirely absent from provincial towns and villages; affluent Parisian suburbs are spared the spray painting that scars south Dublin; the city centre is free of the intimidation of gatherings of drunken youths.  It would be hard to imagine the Gardiens de la Paix quietly accepting the behaviour encountered by the Garda Siochana

Vancouver in British Columbia is bigger than Dublin: the 2.1 million people in Metro Vancouver well exceeding the 1.6 million people in the Greater Dublin area. The Canadians simply would not tolerate what Irish people accept as commonplace.  We borrowed a car in Vancouver on one occasion and went to visit part of the city in the evening.  Stopping at parking meters, we realised that the street was not the most salubrious and decided to change our plans.  Our friends looked mystified when we explained that we had not gone where we had planned.  “What was the problem? Those guys wouldn’t have touched the car”.  Such assurance could not have been offered here – having had a wing mirror kicked off the car parked at the station one evening last summer.

It would be hard to calculate how much money is spent in the city simply fixing things that never needed to be broken in the first place

What’s the problem?

It’s not poverty: Ireland has been through boom times and this morning’s gang wore label hoodies.

It’s not alienation: this is one of the most monolithic societies in Europe, this is not some minority group who feel they have no stake.

Maybe it’s simply young male aggression and, maybe, at a time when the country is broke, it is an indulgence that can no longer be afforded.

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  1. The problem is very few people will stand up to them. If we all took a stand against the behaviour; if everybody rang the police to complain then perhaps they might start doing somethong about it. I have had a similar experience and when I stopped to give off to the boys about snowballing my car got not only abuse and more snowballs but a stone as well. The police did nothing. The headmaster of the school said he would talk to his pupils about it but that was as far as it went. Anti-social behaviour in certain parts of the city has got so bad that good members of the communiy a rueing the demise of the paramilitaries. A very sad state of affairs.

  2. Ian,

    Teachers, clergy and any leader of youth organisations all know that young people have you over a barrel nowadays with all rules and regulations about discipline in force today.

    All a child or a youth has to do is call Child-line or its equivalent and they are believed before the adult.

    Recently while walking through a local park I saw young Primary school children playing in the river fully clothed. They were in danger, I suggested that they should come out of the water and go home to dry out their uniforms and shoes.

    They replied with a string of foul language, and as I move on they yelled after me: Pervert! Pervert!

  3. We have ‘pockets’ of silly behaviour here. In fact you can pick trouble spots geographically but generally youths are well behaved unless fuelled by alcohol and the authorities are addressing this as a serious issue. I think a greater police presence acts as a deterrent to bad behaviour but it’s basically an issue of family values and upbringing. A friend wrote me from Ireland last week, he was shocked and dismayed at the decline in ‘attitude’ over there, precipitated in no small way by the recession and said ‘everyone here is complaining about everything but nobody does anything positive about it, in Australia, you are more philosophical, roll up your sleeves and get on with it’. . .I’d never thought of it that way, but he as a point.

  4. Ian, Its a lack of discipline at home and at school,some parents thinking its cool to condone anti-social behavior and threatening people who tell their children off. I dont believe in beating and thrashing children but a good sharp shock does bring them into line and as long as they know that no-one can touch them or even raise their voice to them they will carry on with this behavior. I am sure you can remember when we were kids we certainly were not little angels but we knew where our boundaries were.
    The gang of lads who thought it was fun to play football against the wall of my house and kick their ball up onto the roof only needed telling once from me…they never did it again…and They were told in such a way that there was never any repercussions or visits from parents or the authorities…The so called gang ‘respect’ has nothing to do with the real respect they should learn.

  5. The problem with “them” is that you’re making it “us against them”. Our current social-economic system is incredibly flawed – our accountants know it, and our children know it too. How can you blame children today for abandoning a society which values only money, and tries to convince the individual that they are worthless beyond what’s in the bank? Society has nothing to offer today’s troubled youth, except platitudes and condemnation. It’s not the youth that are wrong in the world, it’s our culture that mistreats and ignores its youth, aside from filling them with prescription drugs or beating them or throwing them in jail. I am not unconnected youth violence. I am sickened with our lack of progress. I am ready to key your car. (For more on youth violence on the streets of Vancouver, please see Vancouver’s own indie comic, “The Young Offenders.”)

  6. This is Ireland. This is not an ‘us’ and ‘them’ place. These guys are from my neighbourhood. Their parents would drive cars newer than my nine year old Almera. There is every imaginable facility on the doorstep. No-one fills them with prescription drugs – they would be too affluent to have medical cards – and no-one puts any of them in jail. This is a male problem – they behave like civilized human beings when girls are around – and it’s a matter of choice. I don’t see why working people should have to put up with such stuff.

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