What happened at the Cherry Orchard in Dublin last Monday night was shocking but not surprising. It came as no surprise to those of us who have been warning for months that chronic antisocial behavior is on the rise and uncontrolled.
It certainly came as no surprise to the untold thousands of decent law-abiding people who live and work in city centers or large housing developments who see their community
tormented daily by rowdy gangs of teenagers who fear no one, least of all the gardaí or the judicial system.
While it would be unfair to attribute this surge in antisocial behavior solely to the protracted Covid lockdowns, the fact that large parts of our cities and towns were closed and drained of all activity led a few to believe that those places now unattended were playgrounds where they could trade with impunity.
This increase is not mere perception. As I noted here a few weeks ago, claims that our roads are among the safest in Europe fail the ‘smell test’.
Yes, there are statistics that say reported crime is low here, but is evidential crime low, or is reporting low? Based on my constituency’s inbox, it’s the latter…and I think any teenager will tell you the same thing. Irish social media channels are now crammed full of videos of attacks, fights and all manner of seriously violent behaviour. It’s on the streets, in shops, on buses and trains. We don’t imagine it or exaggerate it. This problem is real and growing.
This is not the unbridled youthful high spirits, but an understandable consequence of social deprivation. This is crime – juvenile delinquency. And if it continues to be left unchecked and unconfronted, it will produce the next generation of gang members.
One has to be very naive not to spot the insidious hand of drug gangs in what is happening. Not that they plan this surge in antisocial behavior as a deliberate strategy, but that they have a vested interest in nurturing a new breed of non-gorm foot soldiers who are willing to turn their community into a law and order no-go area , respect or common decency.
With all the hype and media attention, it should not be forgotten that while the immediate target of last Monday’s recklessness was the brave Gardaí who narrowly escaped serious injury or worse, the broader primary target was the entire Cherry Orchard community .
It was the neighbors of those who directed the chaos. The hardworking majority who just want to live their lives in peace and quiet. They were the victims last Monday, as they had been for countless days before, when the media spotlight fell elsewhere.
We are told that saturating the area with gardaí is not the solution. This is a superficial answer that avoids the reality that this is a law and order issue. The people of Limerick know from experience that dramatically increasing the presence of Lake Garda over an extended period of time is an important first step in combating and deterring endemic crime.
We’ve seen firsthand that a highly visible and active Garda presence both limits the ability of those willing to terrorize their own communities and reassures their intended victims. If local Garda Command could have dispatched more resources than just a patrol car to last Monday’s crime scene, the people of Cherry Orchard would undoubtedly have been the first to cheer.
A point made by Jim O’Callaghan TD in a radio interview on Tuesday that I wholeheartedly agree with is showing these kids now that their actions have consequences, which will do them a huge favor in the long run. The tools are there. Although the Children’s Act focuses primarily on the prevention and diversion of juvenile delinquency, it gives authorities a range of sanctions and penalties (in Section 98) for persons under the age of 18, including fines, community sanctions, custody orders or orders for a parent / Guardian to be bound.
The bottom line is that youth who engage in antisocial behavior must see that you pay a price for not respecting your neighbors and your community, and that the state will demand that price.
It is better to learn this simple civics lesson now than to see a new generation behind bars three or four years from now.
Willie O’Dea is Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick City
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/just-ask-anyone-in-limerick-cherry-orchard-louts-must-be-taught-a-lesson-before-they-get-really-out-of-hand-42014785.html Just ask anyone in Limerick: Cherry Orchard Louts need a lesson before they really get out of control