As an instinctive authoritarian with a healthy degree of scepticism about “the youth”, let me just say this: Is it time for a second look at the Social Democrats?
A Dublin councillor says a change to drinking laws, and curfews on younger people, could be a solution to anti-social behaviour.
Social Democrats councillor for Howth and Malahide, Joan Hopkins, was speaking after a woman fell under a train last month…..
…..She said Ireland should copy Iceland’s approach to anti-social behaviour, which it adopted a decade ago.
“Iceland were seeing what we’re seeing now… they had the highest levels of youth drug and alcohol abuse.
“They’ve gone from the highest of 42% down to the lowest of 5%.”
“The programme is radical but it’s evidence-based and it relies a lot on enforced common sense.
“If we don’t do something about this, then we’re going to be talking about it next year and the year after.
“They changed the laws: they brought in a new age limit for alcohol – you have to be 20 to buy alcohol in Iceland, they introduced curfews”.
Leaving aside my own personal approval of the notion of locking young people up after dark, you’d have to say this: It’s some country, isn’t it, when the Government has spent a year locking us up 24/7 and the opposition’s answer is a curfew for younger people.
All jokes aside, this is a terrible idea. For one thing, it is a form of collective punishment. It says that because some young people behave in an anti-social manner, the solution is to restrict the liberty of all young people. Instead of finding and prosecuting actual criminals, this policy says, we will just treat everybody as if they are a criminal.
Note also that the policy is not simply to introduce a curfew: She also wants to raise the age at which you can buy alcohol to 20. That would still make us more liberal than the United States, where the age for alcohol consumption is 21, but bear in mind that this is coming from a party that also wants to lower the voting age to 16. For five years of your life, then, they want your votes, but only if you agree to stay indoors after dark, and live life as a teetotaller.
The issue she raises, though, in fairness, is very real. The surge in crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly in the capital, is something we have written about on these pages before. The problem, of course, is that it is hardly surprising. Ireland presently has the highest youth unemployment in her history, at over 50%. We have the guts of a generation of young people out of work. The remainder, it must be said, are not doing much better: Even those with very good jobs have little prospect of buying their own homes, and an enormous proportion are still living with their parents.
The notion that the way to deal with these problems – created, remember, by the political class themselves – is to lock them up after dark? Well, that is many things, but it is not sensible. Expect the Social Democrats to be on the phone to Councillor Hopkins shortly, gently suggesting that she walk this one back.