We live off the South Circular Road in Kilmainham, a quite central and urban part of Dublin, in a little middle class oasis amid lots of working class neighbourhoods – Inchicore, Dolphins Barn, Rialto, and Drimnagh. At the back of our house is a laneway that runs between our houses and the Sth Circular. Last night we were hearing voices from kids, obviously larking about at the back. In the absense of actually seeing these kids, our minds raced off in different directions. Were they local, or were they from the badlands surrounding us? Were they drinking cans of beer, shooting heroin, or shagging their girlfriends? Were they pissing against our back wall? And, worst of all, was this going to be a summer-long movement of youth into our back lane? We also have an elderly neighbour who lives on her own who is always telling us how scared she can get at night.
In order to find out a bit more, I ventured out at about 10pm on a spurious errand to the local shops, passing the youths on my way. To my relief, they were very much middle-class, well-dressed, well-behaved kids. Certainly boisterous, and a couple were drinking cans of beer, but they were discussing movies and being utterly inoffensive in general. (And, yes, I admit I made a very class-conscious decision about this. What else?)
By the time I got to the shops and returned some Gardai were rounding the kids up. It all seemed a little heavy-handed and even a little extreme. The situation was calm and friendly enough, but it looked like it was their first experience with the law. Such innocence!
My mind turned to thinking what these kids were going to do with their summers. Are there places for them to congregate, have a laugh, and grow-up? Are we radicalising them in any way, innuring them to the law at an early age? I contrast the way we treat teenagers in Ireland with the way I saw them in Sicily recently, where whole families seemed more integrated and where drinking wasn’t the central entertainment for them. We’ve a lot to learn.