THE woman who made her name as Ireland's most trusted agony aunt for three decades has bemoaned the degradation of young people and called on parents to start taking responsibility for their children.
Angela MacNamara, whose Sunday Press columns in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties were an important touchstone for the lovelorn and the confused, said parents of teenagers in the younger age bracket from 12 to 15 need to take "moral control" and stop allowing their children to go out to discos "dressed like hookers".
The 82-year-old was keen to point out that her age did not mean she was out of touch and instead afforded her a wealth of experience.
"Any thinking adult today must be deeply concerned about the kind of world in which our young people have to grow up sexually. What are we doing about it?" she asked.
"We are told that there has been a decline in teenage pregnancies. That's not the result of deeper insight or moral control but of an increase in contraceptives available to children."
The retired youth counsellor, who became Ireland's first agony aunt in the Irish Press, where she advised troubled readers for over two decades, was moved to speak after a HSE-funded charity was reported in the Sunday Independent to have been teaching teenagers about the pros and cons of having threesomes.
Although the site is directed at teenagers who are from the 16-years-plus bracket, Ms MacNamara gave special mention to a younger group of teenagers who, she said, had no parental guidance on sexuality and relationships.
"Young women go out socially in scanty outfits that advertise the fact that their bodies are available for abuse by men. It is not for children of 12 to 15 to decide to go to discos dressed like hookers. Mother, where are you? Dad?"
She continued: "Just as years ago children felt they couldn't talk at home to their parents, it's just as bad today."
Ms MacNamara said parents needed to know how to talk about sensitive subjects with their children and she provided a few pointers to get the conversation flowing:
"Start at the base point by talking about friendships and then move on from there. Always lead a conversation by asking questions and listening. Find out first what they're thinking.
"They'll start giving you their thoughts and then you can draw them out by asking more questions about what they're saying and they'll gradually start to open up.
"Biology and the facts of life are the easiest thing in the world to teach. What is not so easy is relationships, getting on with people in a caring way and having respect for themselves and each other."
Ms MacNamara, who began her career in 1963, said she still had people writing to her for advice. The highlight of her time in the Press was when she became a matchmaker for one couple.
"A girl wrote to tell me she was quite short in height and felt she'd never find a man and fall in love. It just so happened that I had another letter from a boy who had the same problem. I asked them if either would mind if I gave their address to the other. They both agreed. They are now very happily married and have a boy in university."