A chat with Bill Cullen last year came to mind when CCTV stills of an altercation between young men in a city suburb landed on the news desk last Thursday.
“Our kids are growing up with their hands out,” he told this column at the Tower Hotel after addressing a room full of local business figures.
“They do nothing – we drive them here, we drive them there, they go on holidays, then they’re away for three months. Transition Year in school is supposed to be about getting them out to work. It’s not: they’re dossing.
“They don’t do work at all. I’ve said it before; Transition Year is something which should be done away with. Either let them out of school a year earlier or if you’re going to keep Transition Year, then really put them to work during that year.
“They should be working during the holidays the way we used to do – we all had to go out and earn a few shillings – kids today don’t know anything about that.
“And then they have to go to college for four years: why can’t we do that in two? Let them get their practical experience as well but let’s let them do it quickly.” Back to Bill anon.
Amidst all the talk of the McCarthy Report, the planned cuts to capital expenditure and all that sort of thing, some out there have questioned the relevancy of our Defence Forces.
The idea of scrapping the Army and Navy is wholly insulting. The suggestion of it dishonors all who have worn the uniform and served with distinction in UN operations in The Congo, Lebanon, Kosovo and Chad to name but a few.
As the EU Member State with the largest territorial waters, with a litany of coves, bays and inlets susceptible to the depositing of drugs or other contraband material, we need naval eyes on our waters.
We hardly want to surrender any more of our sovereignty to Brussels now, do we?
And maybe those calling for the disbanding of the Defence Forces have forgotten about subversives who claim to constitute the genuine army of the Irish nation.
With all of the above in mind, our men and women in uniform perform a valued and necessary role, despite the peace-loving incantations of the “flowers in your hair” brigade. We may not want an army or a navy, but the truth of the matter is: we need them.
‘Gangland’ is the buzz word in the national crime pages these days, as criminals continue to gun each other down, primarily in our capital city.
Like everything in life, criminality’s origins are primarily developed in youth. Those critical years of social formation can send youngsters down a dangerous path from which there’s no turning back for some, i.e. today’s shoplifter becomes tomorrow’s drug dealer.
That anti-social problems are being caused by youngsters in what’s widely perceived as a respectable part of the city (Ballinakill) might provoke a more pressing reaction from the powers that be.
The recession has given an entire generation of kids their first taste of the tougher side of life. Redundancy for a parent (or in some cases, both parents) has led to a drastic reduction in family budgets and a need to adapt to a more frugal existence.
The knock-on effects for teenagers/young adults can be difficult and, in some instances, humiliating, with such circumstances leading to a need to lash out at something or, in some cases, someone.
Councillor Gary Wyse, in highlighting the current problems being experienced in several estates within his electoral area, believes that parents need to do more when it comes to supervising their children.
And the anecdotal evidence he’s gathered in recent weeks is far from pleasant.
“Parents are dropping their teenage kids to estates and leaving them to their own devices for the day,” he said.
“Doing this moreorless gives their children carte blanche to do what they want, and if kids are in a group with a few dominant personalities, bad things tend to happen.
“It is very disheartening for people and indeed, it’s frustrating in the extreme when youths are constantly causing damage, physically and verbally abusing quiet, hard working residents who want nothing more than to live in their homes peacefully and without threat.”
Calling for a zero tolerance approach to teenage thuggery, Cllr Wyse suggested on the spot fines for parents of unruly, havoc wreaking kids. “Parents who refuse to live up to their obligations should be brought to account in my opinion,” he said.
Now, remember Bill Cullen’s contention that Transition Year should only be retained if its participants are “really put to work” during the nine months in question?
How about military service, then? By enforcing discipline on a demographic who’d never accept such direction from those who feed, clean and house them, the State would be doing its parental citizenry some service.
Early starts, responsibility for cleanliness, encouraging team work, physical activity and rewarding hard and honest endeavour would knock a lot of nonsense out of many a so-called ‘unchallenged’ mind.
Now such a scheme would have to be tailored when compared with the training which signed up soldiers commit to; after all, a firearm is the last thing most unruly teenagers should be let near.
But if we want to put manners on our kids without the heavy hand that was deployed by previous generations, let’s put them in uniform for a year to curb that wreckless streak.