The question of CCTV in Westport has once again come to the surface at Town Council level. It is not without some justification that the call for such is made. As strains within the fabric of the local community become more obvious, fears for personal safety - real and imagined - surface. These fears are greatly enhanced when large groups of unsupervised young people congregate on our main street, in particular on the Mall river opposite McGreevy’s, the archways midway up the main street and the Octagon.
While the young people may not have any ulterior motive, their very presence is very intimidating. As a consequence many people, old and middle-aged, do not like walking alone the streets of our lovely town.
Indeed it is not unusual now to hear people say they would not walk home alone at night for fear of assault. In fairness this fear is more imagined than real. Nonetheless, for the citizen/resident of the town it is a fear we can all do without.
The recent spate of robberies in the town and the very dangerous fire at a premises on Main Street are all combining to increase personal fears.
This fear is not only confined to the town centre but also to residential estates around the town. True, there is an increased visible Garda presence on our streets, which is comforting. However, there is still the old cry ‘where are the Gardaí when we need them?’
Perhaps we should also ask ourselves where are we when the Gardaí need our help.
Arguments are often put forward that there is no place for the young people to go. The argument is often trotted out to justify the aimless wanderings of young people on our streets not to mention wanton vandalism.
There is some truth to the argument but not to the extent that they should on a daily basis congregate on our streets in strength.
To argue that they have no place to go is to argue that they are not capable of thinking up recreational activities that would help them in the whole socialising process as well as being healthily entertaining. Are we to believe that this I-pod/Gameboy generation have lost the ability to be creative? If so then what future awaits this community of ours?
Is our near future community to be one of the communities living behind automatic gates where entry is by special password or other security check? If that were to happen here - as has happened in other places - then truly we can say societal fabric has collapsed.
In all of this there is also the role of the family. This very valuable unit is much cherished in all its modern manifestations. It is through this unit that an education in ‘respect’, in the broad context, is transmitted. If, as it would appear, there is a weakening in the fabric of our local community/society, to what extent must the family shoulder responsibility?
Can our affluent society be totally to blame for this deterioration? Can greed? Selfishness? Loss of faith?
Or is the malaise much deeper, more general? Blaming others for shortcomings in the community is not the answer. Neither is blaming the Government.
How about young people and their parent(s) open up the lines of communication between one another. Talk to one another and start sharing as much of their precious moments as is reasonable.
Lastly, I think it would be interesting for the groups of young people that congregate around the areas I mentioned earlier should ask themselves ‘what am I and the group I am in doing to enhance the community of which I am a member?’
While it is not your normal policy, Madame Editor, I must request that my name and address be witheld should you decide to publish my letter.
The last time I spoke out I was targeted by phone, subjected to verbal and physical abuse and had my car damaged.