Article from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

Youth facilities not ASBOs

by Mike Murphy

MUCH DISCUSSION has taken place on the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders in Ireland, a great deal of which has focused on the issue of criminalising young people who have broken no law.

The Socialist spoke to PAT O'CONNELL, an outreach worker with the Cork Local Drugs Task Force, to ask what alternative approaches to anti-social behaviour he would like to see introduced.

Pat made it very clear that he understands the frustration and annoyance caused by anti-social behaviour, but his angle is quite different to that of the Minister for "Justice". He argues that it is important to find what interests young people have, and encourage them to develop their skills. At the moment, sport and leisure pursuits are not facilitated at all. For example, Pat is involved in a campaign with a number of skaters and BMXers to have a skatepark opened in Cork, but they are receiving very little support from the City Council.

Another point Pat makes is in relation to "Youth Shelters". These are initiatives taken by some British local authorities to provide a space for young people to socialise and hang out. Such facilities can be very straightforward and need not be expensive. Many have been associated with significant reductions in anti-social behaviour -Burnley saw a reduction of 29% in nuisance reports across the city and of 50% in the area where the shelter was located, while an area in Essex saw the number of nuisance reports drop from 30 per month to only five.

In short, Pat, as a person who works in the field, feels that the best approach to dealing with antisocial behaviour among the youth is to encourage them to develop themselves and pursue their interests, and provide them with the facilities to do this and to socialise with their peers. The evidence certainly seems to support him.

The government could very easily take the money that would be spent on implementing ASBOs, or money from any of its rich-friendly tax breaks, and use this to fund the provision of such facilities. However, instead of this they choose to offer repression and the threat of imprisonment.

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