Terror and boredom in public spaces

Yesterday evening after dark I was walking along a road in Dublin. At the corner of the road was a green space with a few park benches. A group of teenagers had assembled there, and as far as I could make out they had several ‘six packs’ of either beer or cider. They must already have been there a while, as there were empty cans strewn around the grass, as well as some little boxes that had probably contained chips or the other food. They were noisy, and as I approached I saw one young man urinating on to the pavement, while another was throwing stones at a garage door on the other side of the road, where there are houses.

And then I saw the face of an elderly woman looking out of the window of the house with the garage, and though I was a little distance away, she was clearly terrified. And so, to be honest not entirely without trepidation, I walked over to the stone throwing young man and asked him politely to stop. In fairness to him, he did. The woman’s face disappeared from the window. I stopped for a moment to talk to the teenagers, and actually they were quite friendly to me, explaining that they came here because they had nowhere else to meet. They didn’t mean to terrorise anyone, it was ‘just a bit of craic’ (fun, to those who don’t know the expression). I wasn’t really sure what else to do, so I just pointed out that they had frightened the woman across the road, and I walked on. I was quite relieved, because I knew well enough that this exchange could have gone very differently.

But we do need to ask ourselves what we are doing to provide places and facilities for young people. Do we now just take it for granted that they will eat and drink and urinate in public spaces? Or can we not find something better for them, and something better also for those who feel frightened by them? Is it really good enough for us, as a society, just to let this happen? Isn’t this much more important than the Taoiseach’s hoarseness?

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7 Comments on “Terror and boredom in public spaces”

  1. Mark Dowling Says:

    “Isn’t this much more important that the Taoiseach’s hoarseness?”

    That could cover every post you’ve ever made, including the ones on football. Fair play to you for going up to those lads though – hard to know how encounters like that will go.


  2. I’ve been a fan for a while but now I’ve got to echo Mark’s comments – the mainstream media could replace 90% of their coverage with the content of your blog and the country would be better served for it.

    And I have to admit that you’re a better man than most, myself included, for confronting what many would see as a bunch of thugs and seeing past the stereotype.

    Have you heard about that other President job that’s coming up – any chance that you might consider running?

  3. Vincent Says:

    In general Irish kids are not thugs. What they are is turned inward on a grouping that they feel is safe. This is valid, I believe, for both the girls and the boys. But it is with the boys that there is caused that feeling of fear on people like your older woman.
    However, what I far less sure about is how much the lack of ‘facilities’ has to do with anything, for I feel that it is a developmental requirement of teens that they involve themselves with each other in this sort of way. For is this not exactly what the average army seeks to create which in that case is called Esprit de Corp.
    In this circumstance, that esprit de corp as with the Army, the worry is not when they are standing around but when they move as One.
    And for what it’s worth, if there was just one girl in amongst that grouping you would have been far less safe. Nor I suspect would it have mattered which school they went to either.

  4. Al Says:

    Tip of the hat.
    They were probably impressed with you too.
    You point to something important.

    We fail to inspire of challenge spirit ofthe youth of today.
    And the greatest retardation of this spirit is the stiffling sense of duty to keep them safe.
    There is a passion that needs to be unleashed in them to climb mountains, discover things etc.

    Saying that I spent some of the best nights of my life on similar park benches…


  5. Well done.

    Ireland is not a dangerous place and yet so many are frightened. Yes, there are dangers but there are daft stories too. I know of people who think it too dangerous to go into Dublin city centre. Locally I know of people who avoid a footbridge because young people drink there.

    Young people are loud, boisterous, untidy, disrespectful etc. They tend to mature but we hope not too much and not too soon!

    I don’t think they need amenities like clubs where they must behave. They need to be tolerated but appealed to when their behaviour goes too far. They like hanging around in the open with their mates. They mean no harm and generally they do no harm.

    By the way, the gang at the footbridge are OK. If you bid them goodnight, they’ll raise their cans in salute. I wish they’d clean up afterwards – take their cans home with them – but the most useful thing that decades have taught me is that it’s important to distinguish between an annoyance and a problem.

  6. Phil Says:

    Still, there are generally such things as public toilets…


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