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Social Quagmire

category national | crime and justice | opinion/analysis author Wednesday January 02, 2008 11:36author by Geoffrey Cooling - None Report this post to the editors

Drugs and Crime in Ireland

Behind the current drugs problem is an underlying moral social issue.

I have watched recent events with great interest; the death of Katy French in particular seems to have moved our government to greater statements of intent than usually would be the case. While the death of Miss French is sad, tragic and especially heart breaking to her family, Miss French was a habitual drug user who caused her own death. I grew up in the eighties in Dolphin’s Barn, I remember stepping over the body of another habitual drug user that had died on the stairs of the flats in order to go to school. However, I do not remember the national news papers doing three and four page stories on that death or the many others that occurred during that time.

The government of the time did not care then, nor does it really appear to care now. We are close to a state of community collapse; whole areas of our major cities are for all intensive purposes under siege from criminal elements. It is long past time to take action, the public debate appears to at least have started in reference to our options from here. The debate includes legalisation, while legalisation would appear to be effective in wresting the control of the rather profitable drugs trade from the hands of the burgeoning criminal fraternity, what other effects will it have on our society.
In countries that have followed that route albeit a limited version, they found that the cost was increased problems with the health care systems and a noticeable jump in associated crime.

Canada, after legalising cannabis voted several years later to re-criminalise it after an increased level of criminal activity especially in teens. Holland while a different model has found that the use of hard drugs and the associated problems has increased seemingly because of cultural acceptance because of the de-criminalisation.

On the other hand we could enforce existing legislation and introduce new legislation tackling both the supply and demand end of the market, building new prison places as we do so to take the thousands of new prisoners we convict. All those Dublin 4 and 6 residents caught with powder on their nose will demand a better class of prison you know. But both of these courses of actions are designed to treat the malaise, not the underlying causes.

The real issue at stake here is our collective morality and philosophy as a nation. While it was once un-acceptable to think in any other terms than how our actions would affect the greater good of the community, it is now seen as out dated idealism. It is now about me, just me, and possibly, only possibly, my family. This has resulted in an almost complete diminution of our collective sense of community; it was this sense of community that made us who we were. It was once a rather large problem to be ostracised from a community, the underlying threat of it ensured that people generally behaved with at least a reasonable modicum of civility.

This sense of community no longer appears to exist and the relative social mores have gone by the wayside. What was once unacceptable behaviour has become everyday, it is a vicious circle, the longer it goes on the more insular we become, the further diminution of our community. I watched in disbelief recently in my own area when a vacant property was vandalised almost beyond repair by local teenagers as their respective mothers looked on. It must have made them so proud, look little Johnny can smash a window with the best of them. Did you see my young lad throw that toilet out the top window?

We have become morally corrupt, no more is this in evidence than with our political representatives. While they allegedly are existent to protect and serve, it would appear that they shall attempt to get to that after they lift their snout from the trough. The exposing of their corruption and ineptitude does not seem to be enough to shame them, they apparently feel no shame. Certainly in the case of Mister Ahern it appears that no matter how much evidence you gather against the man it will never be enough for him to become ashamed enough to resign. Mister Ahern in case you are not aware of the fact most of the electorate are of the opinion that you are a corrupt crook.

It is this underlying moral corruption that is at the heart of a lot of our modern problems. The breaking of the shackles of the church was supposedly to bring a fairer and just society to Ireland with more social freedoms than before. While it has done just that, unfortunately we appear to have swung too far the other way. While we may deal with the drugs issue, be it through legalisation or further criminalisation it will be harder to address the underlying moral conundrum, how to engender morals in a society apparently avowed to lose them and how to engender a sense of us instead of I.

author by Percy ffrenchepublication date Thu Jan 03, 2008 09:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The "sense of community" in the past only meant that all the bad stuff was kept quiet.

The price was a bad church-supervised education system which didn't prepare people for the emigration that followed.

Why are we now paying €1 billion a year to the third world when we still have 3rd world places at home that need help? And with a sot like Conor Lenihan in charge to make sure we don''t get ripped off?

Related Link: http://www.theirishworld.com/article.asp?SubSection_Id=2&Article_Id=4392
author by Wearypublication date Thu Jan 03, 2008 20:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I detect this moral degeneration too and it makes me anxious but what can anybody do?Establish some sort of official state morality implemented by a Department of Morality? Would we have a Minister of Morality?Morality inspectors? Philosophers, theologians, scientists and other academics and thinkers can't even agree what morality is.

author by Jimmypublication date Fri Jan 04, 2008 07:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with the general thrust of the article, which rightly decries the media focus on the individual tragedy of socialite Kate French while overlooking individual and communal tragedies in low income areas of Irish society. The drugs trade has made deep inroads into communities which have traditionally been beset with financial, literacy and health problems. I don't believe there were "good old days" and the writer isn't glorifying the past either. What he seems to suggest is that in the absence of church community bonding the communities won't be able to cope with the myriad of problems especially the drugs problem, since the void left by church affiliation hasn't been filled by any other bonding infrastructure.

In the mid-70s independent councillor later TD Tony Gregory co-operated with parish networks and the prisoners rights association to educate inner city neighbourhoods about the dangers of allowing the drugs trade to spread. Some progress was made but the power of the international drugs trade was too great to resist and the drug barons got a stranglehold of the situation.

The Criminal Assets Bureau was established. It has hit many convicted drug merchants where it counts - their property and bank accounts. The CAB can only act after convictions in the courts.

I can't make any reccomendations for solving the plight of drug-ridden low income communities. One problem, as a poster above said, is that there is no sense of community in many city neighbourhoods.

author by Geoffrey Cooling - Nonepublication date Sat Jan 05, 2008 11:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am not a fan of organised religion, particularly the catholic flavour, nor would I espouse a return to the church run state. I use the reference to the church just as a marker, we need to enforce a sense of morality through education and the age old carrot and stick method. Do wrong, go to prison, do not stop do not pass go.

I was of the opinion that the failure of our legal system was squarely to be laid at the foot of the Gardai, however, now I do not think that is the case, or just the case. Our Legislators and judiciary share a very large part of the blame.

author by Geoffrey Coolingpublication date Sat Jan 05, 2008 12:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No weary, I would just like the Minister for Children, The Minister for Education and the Minister for Justice earn the salary.

And to the question to what you can do? The next time one of the tossers turns up at your door ask him where he stands and what his party is going to do about it. Even better, find out the address and e-mail address of your local representative both at council and national level and send him an e-mail and a written registered letter.

Ask him in plain and clear language what he and his party are going to do about your concerns and send it registered post. Get all your friends to play the game as well, Your local representative really could not give a toss about you or me, however both he and his party do give a toss about a block of votes, especially if you discuss your letter with your local newspaper.

And most importantly vote your conscience not your party affiliation. These people work for us and are accountable to us.

author by Wearypublication date Sat Jan 05, 2008 13:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If I raise the issues that you have raised with a politician he/she will merely "toss" back a load of cobblers.

author by Jimmypublication date Sun Jan 06, 2008 01:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You declare that "...we need to enforce a sense of morality through education and the age old carrot and stick method."

That sounds like the law of the sheriff and his posse's guns in the wild west.

A sense of morality cannot be plucked out of the air. It has to be based on a society's historic consensus handed down from century to century. Would the ten commandments help? I am deeply worried by the moral void left by the decline in Catholic influence, allied to the splurge of illusory affluence coming from the celtic tiger, the alcohol + drugs culture, and the death of community feeling in a rapidly suburbanising society.

author by Pierre Jumayelpublication date Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I am not a fan of organised religion, particularly the catholic flavour, "

Why, what is particularly bad about the Catholic faith above all others?

I blame the permissive society, this liberal attitude "I can do whatever I want". There is in Catholicism a sense of communitarianism and the lynchpin of Catholic social policy is re-distributism. This underlined Fianna Fáil's traditional approach to social and economic policy, which has historically been the party of the left in Ireland (at least that of workers and small farmers). Ironic then that Fianna Fáil has exchanged social democracy for free-market liberalism.

Social and economic liberalism is the prevailing ideology in Ireland today. People want expediency and instant gratification. The notion of solidarity with trade unions and other workers is rather quaint in modern society. I think abortion is the ultimate example of this, women who have sex when it suits them and are unwilling to deal with the consequences, who would rather destroy a child than be encumbered by it. This inane "rights based" attitude is poisonous: everybody has rights, but nobody is willing to take any responsibility. The working poor are so dependent on the welfare state and think they have an absolute right to housing and so forth, but are anxious to deny the same to others e.g. asylum seekers or immigrants. You decry the attitude of these stupid, feckless mothers but are you one of those activists that has in the past has sympathized with them and worked to secure a council apartment that they objectively don't deserve?

In the past, the respectable working class had been the bedrock upon which FDR's (or indeed Jimmy Carter jr's) Democratic party and Harrold Wilson's Labour party were based. Not anymore, that has changed with the upwardly-mobile working class becoming more discerning in whom they support and both the Democrats (and Labour) becoming dependent upon that proportion of the underclass that sees fit to vote that week. So, they've helped to produce a selfish generation that is dependent upon the State and thinks everybody owes them something. Where does this sense of entitlement come from?

author by Jimmypublication date Sat Jan 12, 2008 04:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'd like to second these comments by Pierre - "There is in Catholicism a sense of communitarianism and the lynchpin of Catholic social policy is re-distributism. This underlined Fianna Fáil's traditional approach to social and economic policy, which has historically been the party of the left in Ireland (at least that of workers and small farmers). Ironic then that Fianna Fáil has exchanged social democracy for free-market liberalism."

I would substitute christian democracy for social democracy in the above quote. Postwar (West) Germany reconstructed its shattered society by implementing a mixture of christian and social democracy. Many of its leading politicians have been attempting to erode the social consensus by introducing market-led liberal economic policies. If they get their way expect German society to break down into alienation/atomising me-first attitudes of the kind so widespread in the Irish media of today.

If FF has turned its back on its communitarian past as Pierre says then the drug-troubled suburban communities are in deep trouble. In the absence of a bonding church culture they have nothing coherent to turn to.

author by Irish Nationalistpublication date Thu Apr 17, 2008 21:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What is wrong with the educational system? It serves students well and is very tolerant.

Nowadays we have the "Me, myself and I" philosophy spread by Dublin 4 types who usually don't have to deal with the consequences of their cocaine addiction. When someone dies, it is a tragedy, but it is usually the working-class who suffer - the Dublin 4 type can always pull strings to get a better prison cell.

author by Cael - Sinn Féin Poblachtachpublication date Thu Apr 17, 2008 22:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pearse called the educational system of his day "the murder machine" and nothing has changed. It just trains young people to not think. Economics is taught totally from a neo-liberal perspective, history is totally distorted to suit the continued British occupation in the six counties (which is, of course, never to be called an occupation), in short young people are simply trained to be meat for the Irish Landlords' grinder. No wonder, when their powers of discernment have been withered by the uneducational system, and they face into the horrible society their elders have created, the best many can do is get drunk or stoned - and stay that way as much of the time as they possibly can. No doubt "Fianna Fáil - the Landlord's Party" are more than happy that the situation should remain thus. Otherwise, the young people just might think of changing something....

Related Link: http://admin2.7.forumer.com/index.php
author by studentpublication date Fri Apr 18, 2008 07:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If the educational system is such a murder machine and meat grinder, how come Cael emerged unhurt from it?

author by Cael - Sinn Féin Poblachtachpublication date Fri Apr 18, 2008 18:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I got most of my education after I left school - and what makes you think I wasnt hurt by going through this meat grinder?

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