Posted tagged ‘teenagers’

Terror and boredom in public spaces

September 19, 2010

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?