Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Finglas in Flames, Nation in Denial

The St Patrick’s Night festivities in Finglas, where gangs of feral youths saw fit to commemorate the arrival of Christianity to this island by burning out cars and rioting con brio, are covered in all this morning’s newspapers. An Spailpín couldn’t help but smile to himself when RTÉ’s Valerie Cox, presenting It Says in the Papers on Morning Ireland, reported that The Sun's editorial is thundering this morning that the good citizens of Finglas, rightly disgusted by this behaviour, are considering moving somewhere else.

Ms Cox didn’t have space to say where these good citizens are expected to move to, but for anybody who doesn’t take The Sun of a morning, like An Spailpín, I believe that Shangri-La is quite nice this time of year. Tír na nÓg has been popular for some time. For those thinking of a rural idyll, Percy French had great faith in many places on this green isle, such as Drumcolliher, Ballyjamesduff and those Mountains of Mourne that sweep down to the sea. Or, for those sick of rain, the Beach Boys had great faith in a spot called Kokomo back in the eighties, which is a bar somewhere in the Florida Keys I believe. Very specific bucks, those Beach Boys.

One of the foundation myths of the Irish property boom is that one can pogo from area code to area code, until eventually reaching the prefect peace of a Georgian domicile in leafy Dublin 4. Well, if any of those citizens of Finglas are thinking of making the move from Dublin 11 to Dublin 4 – and it certainly seems like a good idea right now – they’ll have to find someone to buy the current house first. Someone that doesn’t read the papers, or listen to the news, and who thinks that their Hyundai Tuscon will be exempt from the periodic torching that is part of the local charm.

The Examiner’s editorial is on the button this morning. The government has been talking about “zero tolerance” for eleven years. The ASBO was introduced last year, but not one has been issued. And here’s the kernel of the matter: “This is not just antisocial behaviour, it is serious criminal behaviour and should be regarded as such.”

And it is clearly not regarded as such. The Irish Times reports that Fine Gael, with the flair for practical politics that has made the party such a viable alternative Government, has called for the introduction of “special night courts” to deal with the problem.

Special night courts. So you haul a guy with twenty prior convictions up before the Beak and now he has twenty-one convictions. Does anybody really think that’s going to make a difference?

The tireless campaigner Father Peter McVerry is quoted in that same report in the Irish Times as saying that “nobody seems to have any answers to try and deal with this particular problem.”

An Spailpín Fánach has two suggestions.

The first suggestion is that if someone is indulging in criminal acts, he or she is imprisoned, and kept there until they stop. This is seems simple enough, but with fellas running around with multiple criminal convictions, putting criminals in prison and keeping them there is something we as a society don't seem to quite understand.

On the broader social issue, Carl O’Brien is correct in today’s Irish Times in saying that sustained funding and early intervention can alleviate the problem. But An Spailpín is not sure that we as a people fully realise what early intervention means. If you’re dealing with parents who think it’s ok to have ten-year-olds drunk and rioting then a finger-wagging from a social worker or a civvy-wearing padre isn’t going to do it. Besides, at ten it’s too late; those young fellas' only hope is to join the British Army, and hope that the Queen can do for them what their own State has failed, and give them some purpose in life. The British Army has been doing it for their forebears for hundreds of years, after all.

And for the younger children, for whom there is still hope, if you are going to intervene that means that you have to take children off their parents, who are clearly a bad influence of them. You have to write off one generation in order to save the next. This means you have to build many orphanages, and staff them with trained professionals. And if you’re going to do all that, you have to write big, fat cheques and raise taxes in order to pay those professionals. You may say foster homes are better than orphanages; fair enough. The problem is that the cheque for the orphanages will be big enough; there’s no way there’s enough money to pay for better care. There just isn’t. This is the price we pay for long-fingering the problem for so long. Shame on us all.

Someone in the Irish political landscape will want to be come down with a very virulent case of vision before any of this happens, of course. An Spailpín shan’t be holding his breath.

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