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Dublin: 7°C Friday 3 December 2021

Column: Unprovoked violence on Dublin's streets shouldn't be accepted as 'normal'

Dublin is now a more modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan city, but senseless violence also breaks out on the streets of the capital – we can’t ignore that.

Mick McCarthy

I’M PROUD OF my city. It hasn’t always been this way but over the years I’ve come to admire it more and more. I like nothing more than to hear positive things being said about Dublin. I find it annoying when people constantly harp on about the negatives. You can apply that mindframe to literally anything and the result will always be the same.

Let’s get something straight; Dublin is far from perfect. We all know this but how many cities actually are? Every city in the world has social problems that need tackling, transport services that need improving; environmental concerns that require action. All these factors have an impact on a city’s reputation. Dublin is no different in this regard – But it also has its own set of unique and underrated charms that make it special in so many ways. Over the last two decades Dublin has become a much more modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan city. We are growing up as a city and we needed to.

However, despite the optimism something sinister is lurking beneath the surface and it won’t go away.

Unprovoked violence

Last month my positive image of Dublin was shattered. A video emerged on the internet of a Brazilian student being brutally beaten by teenage thugs for no apparently reason. The video is sickening to watch. On the same day a German couple were attacked when asked for a cigarette lighter. Every year there are similar stories like these that blight the Paddy’s Day festivities and leave a stain on our reputation, but these types of random violent attacks are certainly not just confined to St Patrick’s Day. In, fact innocent people seem to get kicked and punched on our streets quite regularly.

Only recently I read that a Chinese girl was brutally assaulted on Moore Street by a group of teenage girls as passersby looked on in horror. Look at any daily newspaper and it won’t take too long before you find a story relating to some form of violent assault on the streets of Dublin. People don’t feel safe on our streets and I don’t blame them. How could they with this as the backdrop to our city life? Dublin seems to have a history of street violence. Granted it’s not a city-wide problem as most parts of Dublin are safe and peaceful. It’s seems to be in the city centre, the heartbeat of Dublin, where it rears its ugly head time and time again.

Vocal public outrage

There was widespread and justified public revulsion on seeing the aforementioned video. People were angry at how visitors to our shores could be so violently assaulted for no apparent reason. On seeing the video it made me feel depressed about being a Dubliner. One moment I was proud of my city and the progress it has made and the next I was ashamed.

In the aftermath I was somewhat encouraged to see such vocal public outrage. Media websites were bombarded with negative comments about Dublin. Our lenient justice system, the lack of gardai presence on the streets, dodgy areas, unruly teenagers, drugs, underage drinking, bad parenting and the welfare system were all topics up for discussion. People were genuinely concerned and offered opinions and solutions. Many very valid points were made, others were extreme and irrational. Emotions can run high when incidents like these happen but the response has to be balanced and realistic. What was evident to me was that Dubliners, proud of their city, wanted an end to this terrible malady.

 Are we helpless to counter the menace on our streets?

As we all know making comments on internet sites is not going to put an end to this problem. I’ve the feeling there is a certain acceptance that street violence is just a part of life in Dublin city, that it ‘goes with the territory’ so to speak. Are we a violent people? I don’t think so but certainly violent people live among us. Do other cities have this problem? Certainly muggings, pick pockets, fights and drunken disorderly are common urban issues in most cities … but unprovoked violent assaults? Is that our domain?

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Fortunately the more streetwise of us might see a potential for trouble and avoid it by crossing the street, ducking into a shop or hailing a taxi, and a Dubliner would be more likely to detect a potential threat. But what if you don’t see the signs, like so many tourists and non-Irish nationals? What if there is no time to react? Take the Brazilian student on St Paddy’s Day for instance. He became ‘involved’ with a group of teenagers after one of them took his hat. Look what happened to him. He could never have imagined that such an innocuous incident could lead to him being knocked unconscious in the street. Are these people just left to ride their luck? Are we completely helpless to counter the menace that exists on our streets? One thing is certain; it isn’t going to go away until something is done about it.

Dublin is a great city and, despite the problems I’ve mentioned, it’s still a relatively safe one. I think it suffers badly from a perception problem, a feeling it is more hostile and dangerous than it actually is. However, there’s no doubt that street violence is an issue in Dublin and we are all potential victims of it as long as we accept it as being part and parcel of life in our city.

Mick McCarthy is from Dublin. He works in education and loves sport and languages

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Mick McCarthy

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