Notwithstanding the extraordinary apology in the Andersonstown News, David Adams picks up where Squinter laid off.. Only, unusually perhaps for a unionist commentator, (David) Adams believes that the blame for anti social behaviours in West Belfast does not lie with his namesake, the Sinn Fein MP, but with poor parenting.
Squinter’s anger is understandable, but it is hard to know what precisely he thinks Gerry Adams and his party should be doing. By the same token, it is somewhat disingenuous of Adams to blame the PSNI and “other criminal justice agencies” as though he believes they can eradicate the problem.
To varying degrees, they plague local communities right across Northern Ireland. At the top end of the scale, hardly a week goes by without reports of someone somewhere in the North being viciously assaulted, stabbed or beaten to death, for no discernible reason. Attacks on police, fire fighters and ambulance crews on emergency call-out are now so common, they barely warrant a mention.
In our usual self-absorbed Northern Irish way, we keep telling ourselves that all of this has something to do with a society emerging from conflict (as though thuggish behaviour will suddenly vanish like snow off a ditch upon the devolution of “normality”), completely ignoring the fact that problems of a similar nature, and worse, exist throughout Ireland and Britain.
There’s not much in the way of “emerging from conflict” to explain the violent and crime-ridden housing estates and the dangerous late-night city centres of Dublin, Limerick, London, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow, or any other Irish or British conurbation you care to think of. All of these places have something else in common with Northern Ireland; there too, they will lay the blame for out-of-control youngsters everywhere except where it properly belongs.
The elephant in the room is, according to Adams:
The real experts are hard-pressed, lowly paid primary-school teachers – now doubling as social workers, breakfast providers, and all-round surrogate parents. Ask them and they will readily point to where rampant anti-social behaviour has its roots, and where ultimately the solution lies: with parenting.
Almost exclusive responsibility for the bad behaviour of young people lies with parents, who neither know nor care about raising children properly. Yet if we dare mention the cost to society of large numbers of boys being raised in the complete absence of a positive male role model, and increasingly girls in the absence of a positive female one, then we are immediately accused of denigrating single mothers.
So it is better to say nothing, or simply lay the blame on the usual, largely amorphous scapegoats: the politicians, the police, and state agencies, although we never do get around to explaining how those people can possibly be held responsible for our children’s bad behaviour.
I’m not entirely sure there is no connection, as Adams argues, with a society coming out of conflict. Some of the widely accepted ‘community’ approaches to dealing with anti social crime required shortcutting legal and judicial processes, and the administration of some fairly heavy, anti social practices.
But his argument in part boils down the fact that simplying tapering off or ending those practices are not an end in themselves.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty