independent

Friday 18 April 2014

The devil has all the best leisurewear: why a hoodie ban is daft

Clothes maketh the man – but leisurewear will maketh him a criminal. This, essentially, is the argument advanced by Castlebar councillor Michael Kilcoyne, who has proposed a by-law that would make the wearing of hoodies illegal.

Having noticed that several recent robberies in his locality were perpetrated by culprits who hid their faces behind hoodies, Kilcoyne concluded that a ban on hoods would put hoodlums out of business.

Fashion trends are clearly not the councillor's strong suit but somebody should tell him that hoodie-hysteria is a decade out of date – and wasn't a pretty sight the first time round.

Despite the dowdiness of his political wares, however, Kilcoyne took to the airwaves to promote them with the gusto of a designer unveiling his spring collection.

Pressed to flesh out his plan to decapitate the criminal fraternity by prohibiting their favourite headgear, he conceded that "99.9 percent" of hoodie-wearers are law-abiding citizens – accurate statistics are essential when it comes to framing law-enforcement policy.

When it was gently suggested to him that burglars and muggers might find alternative methods of disguising themselves, Kilcoyne implied that all forms of hood or mask might have to be outlawed.

"It's an area we have to examine," he insisted.

There is something disconcerting about the fact that this kind of cloth-headed twaddle can be presented as a thoughtful political response to the very real problem of rural crime.

Garda-station closures combined with a marked rise in violent attacks on people living in isolated regions have created a deep fear throughout the country.

This is precisely the kind of issue that merits serious attention by councillors but, unfortunately, seriousness is not their trademark these days.

Council chambers have increasingly become try-out rooms for ideas that would sit more comfortably in stand-up comedy than grown-up governance.

Already this year, we have had the proposal by Kerry councillor Danny Healy-Rae that rural-dwellers be provided with drink-driving licences, entitling them to consume more alcohol before getting behind the wheel than motorists elsewhere.

Then, there's Kevin Sheahan, the Limerick councillor who promoted the dangerous myth that immigrants are afforded preferential treatment in the allocation of social housing – and called for "Irish first" waiting-lists.

In Donegal, meanwhile, Cllr Sean McEniff has advocated that Travellers be "segregated" from settled society, and restricted to remote reservations.

What unites all of these cock-eyed outbursts from the parish-pump pulpit is their apparent focus on matters of pressing public concern.

Crime and punishment, rights and responsibilities, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – these are big issues of civic administration.

At a time when TDs are understandably preoccupied with macro-economics, councillors have a duty to apply themselves to such essential questions.

Rather than rising to the task, however, too many seem more determined to pander to the lowest common denominator.

Economic depressions are notorious incubators of crackpot politics. History abounds with examples of recession-hit societies that retreated into authoritarian manias, fads and crazes.

Some political commentators have expressed relief that Ireland's national politics has largely been spared such destructive folly.

But look at our councillors and the horizon is not so rosy.

Instead of banning headwear styles, we should actually be examining ways of compelling everybody to wear hats that clearly identify them.

Council chambers would make an ideal environment for piloting an experiment in millinery self-expression. If the dunce's cap fits . . .

Irish Independent

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