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crime and justice |
Wednesday January 02, 2008 11:36 by Geoffrey Cooling - None
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.