year old Eamon Scanlon had returned to his native
streets of West Belfast after spending the last few
months earning his living in the notoriously dangerous
city of Philadelphia, USA.
young man set out that evening to meet with friends,
share his stories of travel and work. Instead of returning
home, maybe drunk and happy or just ready for the
next day of his holiday, Eamon subsequently received
treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital, for a head
wound (8 staples in his head to be exact); inflicted
by a snooker cue in the hands of an unidentified individual,
who was one of many that set upon a group of young
men as they stood near the location of the remnants
of a mini bonfire, built and lit by younger children,
in the Poleglass estate.
speaking to Eamon about the incident, he described
what happened previous to the attack. It was 11.30pm
- 12.00 am in the Glenbawn area; a group of young
men had been standing outside the home of two friends,
they had been listening to music from a set of decks
that one friend had sat in front of his house. A group
of around twenty young men maximum at any one time,
had been standing having a drink and listening to
some music, we were actually standing outside the
houses of two of our mates who live next door to
young men were in engaged in nothing illegal, and
no residents in the street had complained or asked
the young men to move. Then, as Eamon disclosed:
of the blue these grown men, about 20 or more of
them arrived, started kicking and smashing what
beer was left and also kicked the decks, which ended
up destroyed. They were swinging what I think were
snooker cues, baseball bats, what looked like big
sticks - they had scarves around their faces and
hats covering them as well.
inquired as to whether the group of attackers indentified
themselves. Eamon stated that if they did, he did
not hear them. The attackers demanded the young people
move whilst beating them and swinging their weapons
all around them.
even said anything, no one provoked anyone, it was
just totally out of the blue
group of masked, armed men moved on once they had
destroyed the remainder of the alcohol, the decks
playing music, and beaten some of the young men present.
The young men did indeed decide to move as requested.
They had walked a few streets away and the same thing
began all over again. It was then that Eamon found
himself being hit with a snooker cue to the head;
he was not the only young person injured, several
needed hospital attention including an apparent attack
allegedly by the same group of masked men later that
night which left one young man with fractured limbs.
it now a consequence that young people live in these
areas, if they are out after 10pm, they are immediately
stereotyped as hoods? This is surely not
the case; any reasonable individual can see that the
majority of our young people are not engaged in consistent
illegal or what is deemed 'anti social' behaviour.
The treatment of our youth has to change - we cannot
allow these draconian style tactics to become the
questioning Eamon in regards to whether he reported
his assault to police, he responded:
what would they do? They would do absolutely nothing.
a truer statement, since a young girl who had recently
been attacked at the interface of Blacks Road and
went to the local Police Station to receive help and
was turned away.
there any reasoning behind this apparent anonymous
kids were told no bonfires - there hasnt been
a real bonfire around here in years
encouraged to explain in his own words the reason
why the attack took place Eamon stated:
they must have nothing better to do.
unfortunately is not an isolated incident; similar
descriptions can be disclosed by young people all
over our city. The ultimate concern is how did we
get to the position whereby these actions are tolerated?
As a community it is necessary to challenge not only
anti social behaviour of our youth, but there are
also implications of armed anonymous mob rule.
There are many serious issues to contend with when
we look at the scenario that took place. No group
overtly has claimed they carried out the attack; the
lack of responsibility-taking is a story we, in the
North of Ireland, are all used to hearing. The more
sinister element with this event is that it is those
who deem themselves community protectors
who seemingly are carrying out these attacks on our
local community watch volunteers carry out such a
needless attack? Why, of course not, they are watching
our communities to decresase the level of 'anti social'
behaviour. If the idea that a group patrolling around
an area, fifty plus strong, armed with crow-bars and
snooker cues is not 'anti social', then I must be
mistaken as to what that term refers to.
myself witnessed on that same night a large group
of armed individuals all walking past the Church of
Nativity in Poleglass and congregating just a little
further at the junction of Glenbaw. To my advantage,
I was in a taxi returning home from a night at a friends;
had I been walking on foot finishing my beer would
this group have confronted me or am I past the 'beating
for nothing' age group at 25? Maybe they might have
offered me one of their clubs or crowbars to accompany
them on their search for the evil youngsters.
someone change the rules while we all werent
looking or is this normal practice for adults in a
community to attack young people with no provocation
and for no apparent sensible reason?
is the need for some control of our communities, there
are brighter tales of successes to tell, I am sure,
but the notion that 'too many cooks can spoil the
broth' can be mirrored on the streets of Poleglass
and elsewhere throughout nationalist Belfast: 'too
many oppressors can spoil our youth'.
young people in our communities have suffered from
the legacy of conflict just as the adults within our
law of the land controls the young people. It is in
the hands of what is generally accepted to be - not
to mention widely documented - a prejudiced British
Court system, and also the newly reformed RUC, which
has yet to demonstrate any element of reforming their
tactics against nationalist communities. The Republican
Movement have for a long time controlled what happens,
to an extent, on the streets of nationalist communities
with their infamous community policing
approach. We all are aware of the implications of
this this tactic; punishment shootings and beatings
have quickly become part of normality in these times.
the political movement apparently progressing, which
is a subjective viewpoint held by some, the emergence
of community watch organisations was began, funded
and sustained by local concerned citizens. The number
of injuries that these organisations have bestowed
on young people actively engaged in NO 'anti - social'
behaviour is becoming a more common feature. As well
as these structures present, there is also the concept
and workings of Community Restorative Justice (CRJ)
organisations. This structure also requires the young
person to listen and be dictated to as to what they
are going to do to meet reparation for any damage/violence
their actions may have caused. Will this same structure
ensure that the adults attacking young people will
also be required to make amends for their anti social
do our youth answer to? Their parents/family, local
republican movement, community watch volunteers, armed
unknown vigilante groups, the police force, CRJ groups
and finally their peers. As a youth worker who participates
in structured group work programs focusing on personal
and social responsibility, which part of our community
do the young people adhere to?
It is as a consequence of all these elements combined
of course with others, that we have seen more and
more of our young people disaffected and isolated
from the wider communities in which they live. Whilst
carrying out research recently into the attitudes
of young people I was struck by one remark
taught us to be this way, all the adults around
us all our lives have told us we should not answer
or pay heed to those who oppress us instead we should
fight back, and we do
It is not however a British oppressor they fight against
- the tables have turned and the current situation
is that many are fighting their own communties. The
fault cannot lay solely at the feet of our youth.
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