Solidarity representative Fiona Ryan has hit out at fellow members of Cork City Council, accusing them of hypocrisy and of unnecessarily vilifying young people.
Councillor Ryan was responding to comments made at the most recent meeting of the Cork City Joint Policing Committee.
A number of members of Cork City Council spoke about the issue of anti-social behaviour taking place on Winthrop Street.
Some even went so far as to described the street “a no go area” and one people are increasingly staying away from, largely due to the large numbers of young people gathering there.
Members of the Gardai said the high volume of youths present had attracted drug dealers to the area, and that a number of arrests had taken place as a result.
Cllr Ryan, however, said some people are using the situation as an excuse to drive young people away from the streets of Cork and the doors of traders.
“I find it quite extraordinary the way literally hundreds of teenagers are being branded as hooligans and worse when, in reality, there has been a small number of anti-social behaviour by a handful of individuals which has been dealt with already by the Gardai,” she said.
“I reject the concept that Winthrop Street is a so-called 'no-go' area. I walk down this street on a daily basis and have never encountered any case whatsoever of intimidation, violence, or harassment. When I first objected to an increased Garda presence to deal with the numbers who congregate in this area, I asked many people for their opinions and attitudes and not one person could speak of an instance where they were even acknowledged by the teenagers, let alone be purposefully upset or experience violence.”
She said other Cork City Councillors have called on a hard line approach to gatherings of young people, and not just on Winthrop Street – she said they want to crack down on youths gathering on Paul Street, in Bishop Lucey Park, and beyond.
“What hypocrisy, when only a few weeks ago the council convened an urgent suicide forum to take on and discuss the huge issues and alienation facing young people in society and at the same time state that they have no right to enjoy the city centre,” said Cllr Ryan.
“Pieta House this week reported that they have experienced an astonishing 163% rise in calls from young people over the past five years. We cannot, on one hand, extend a hand of understanding and comfort to young people and on the other hand vilify them, generalise them and refuse to listen to them on the other.”
She said the message to young people is that their presence is nothing but a nuisance to the traders of Cork city.
“Fundamentally the problem is that there are not sufficient youth services in the city centre that are varied and interesting enough to provide a real alternative to hanging around on the street,” said Cllr Ryan.
“Demanding the Gardai to focus their limited resources on moving young people from one street to another in a perpetual cycle is no solution except adding to the feeling that many young people feel about their worth and value in society."