You’d have to feel sorry for the kids who gathered in Stephen’s Green in Dublin for a mini ‘illegal rave’ on the hottest day of the year.

More than 100 young people, desperately clinging to some vestiges of summer fun, freedom and unbridled rite-of-passage craic, were jumping up and down to tunes from a ghetto blaster. School’s been out for summer since March and students are on the rampage now. Thanks to the virus, whose name I’m too sick and tired to mention, there’s still a cap on fun, despite entering the next phase in our endless roadmap to the life we had before.

Watching Glastonbury highlights, on what should have been its 50th anniversary, reminded me how far away from that we are. I was aching to be young, standing in a field in 1994 listening to Orbital or watching the sublime David Bowie in 2000, free and unhinged.

Normally in summer, kids are on a high after completing a year of school or study – the 2020 kids haven’t done that. Normally they have summer jobs but they can’t do that either. Often they go abroad to work for the summer or enjoy free abandon on the Balearic islands, living out their reckless youth.

When I went for a swim in Dalkey, south Co Dublin, recently, rather than being greeted by elderly middle-class people, there were kids jumping into the sea, fake tan and discarded empty bottles of booze. In a way I couldn’t blame them – in lieu of decent social outlets, they’re left with nothing but some cider and a public park or beach.

Some of them get social welfare payments while living at home, 15,000 full-time students received full Covid payments, while others may get indulged by their parents, who don’t really know what to do with them either. This will continue for at least another two months until school starts or three months until college starts up.

At best they get bored and depressed, at worst, they go feral and run riot. We’ve seen it in the UK and across Europe. Le Fanu Park in Ballyfermot, Dublin, a new skate and play facility, cost €2m to construct and was vandalised just one day after it opened.

Meanwhile, residents of Magazine Street in Cork have taken to holding vigils outside landlords’ properties in a bid to get them to kick out noise-polluting students.

Not all young people are badly behaved, but the Government should put together a kids’ action plan quickly for anyone from age 12 upwards. The plan should contain free classes, outdoor classrooms, creative spaces and reward schemes for reducing waste. Rather than trash the place, they should offer a cash-back scheme for picking up cans or plastic. Beneath them? You think? That’s how Berlin students and homeless people make their money, while the streets get cleaned. I used to do it myself.

We need a nationwide competition for kids between 12 and 21, which young people can enter alone or in groups, where they come up with ways to reduce household waste, CO2, or plans to rebuild Ireland for young people. Let’s give them a voice. Again, cash rewards, a deadline for applications, advertising and possibly sponsors. Easy. Get them to create something positive, give them spaces to work, get communities involved.

Meanwhile, we shouldn’t make excuses for bad behaviour. We all like a good party, and we don’t have to call the church elders when someone is having a laugh, but a lot of the carry-on is just pure badness, disrespect and vandalism.

Littering, congregating in large groups blocking the way of elderly people, and rudeness have no place in society and parents need to put the foot down, as do authorities.

Time spent alone with your brain, with no sense of personal achievement, leads to misery – so let’s get them doing something.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here