herald

Sunday 19 November 2017

Terry Prone: No conscience and they're out of control

Feral. Out of control. Kids without a conscience, high on a cocktail of easily accessed drugs and drink. That's the reality surrounding David Curran, who murdered Pawel Kalite and Mariusz Szwajkos with a level of pre-meditated cruelty that goes beyond violence to pure evil.

As a society, we stand back, stunned by the realisation that Curran may be exceptional in his brutal killing, but he's not at all exceptional in other areas.

More than David Curran have decided that someone must be killed. Other young men have gone home for the lethal knife, and have made their attack with the explicit or implicit support of friends and acquaintances.

The radio phone-in programmes and messaging sites are alive with calls for longer sentences to protect society. The threat of feral teenagers is seen as new, different, particularly horrifying.

Horrifying it is. New and different it isn't. The streets of our cities may not have witnessed such amoral violence before, but in 19th-century America, hordes of teens and pre-teens, labeled "predatory beasts" by police and the press, ran wild on city streets, dodging authorities, "gnawing away at the foundations of society", as a commentator put it at the time.

In Dublin, in the 21st century, the killer of two Polish men was a drug-maddened kid. More than 100 years earlier, on the streets of San Francisco, the killers of a Chinese man were also teenagers. They sliced up his face and branded his body with hot irons.



hatred

But that's history. Of course it is. However, we should not forget that the "curse of emigration" from Ireland carried hidden benefits.

Among those likely to emigrate were young men, who brought their random hatreds with them to the great cities of America, England and Australia, fuelled that hatred with whatever booze or chemicals were cheaply available, and picked on people who were different from them in some obvious way.

In Ireland, right now, the young people who grow up as native speakers of violence can set out to create as much dramatic, suicidal hell as they want, because they don't believe they're going to be caught and because their drug-addled brains have no concept of the future.

There's no point in assuring them the Guards will get them or changing the sentences so they spend longer in prison. There's no point in "sending out a strong message" to people whose brain cells are chemically scrambled.

We need to realise that the signs are always there, long before the screwdriver is driven into an innocent head. Kids don't grow up without a conscience unless society ignores them and lets them run free.

Even in bad times we need to move beyond shock to prevention. We need to pay more attention, earlier. We need to find ways to involve kids so they don't end up proving their manhood using horrific, cruel violence.

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