Monday 14 October 2019

Ian O'Doherty: Looters are scumbags – to say anything else is an insult to their honest neighbours

The Lidl store in Fortunestown Lane, Jobstown, Tallaght (Niall Carson/PA)
The Lidl store in Fortunestown Lane, Jobstown, Tallaght (Niall Carson/PA)
The Lidl store in Fortunestown Lane, Jobstown, Tallaght (Niall Carson/PA)
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

IN Amish culture, there is a tradition known as “rumspringa.”

A sort of rite of passage, this is the period when young Amish are given a free pass from the rules of their normally straight-laced community.

They can leave their home and family, set out into the world and do what they want.

The normal rules of behaviour don’t apply and they are encouraged to get everything out of their system.

In Ireland we obviously don’t have rumspringa. We have the snow instead. And this tradition of letting the hair down and going wild for a few days whenever the white flakes fall is one of the more endearing Irish traits.

Indeed, during the unofficial curfew of last Friday, when people were warned to stay indoors until 4pm that day, my local shop remained open and the local pub was four-deep at the bar, hopping like it was New Year’s Eve and a Good Friday lock-up all rolled into one.

Lidl supermarket on Fortunestown Lane in west Dublin, after a digger was reportedly used by looters to gain access to the store Photo: Chai Brady /PA Wire
Lidl supermarket on Fortunestown Lane in west Dublin, after a digger was reportedly used by looters to gain access to the store Photo: Chai Brady /PA Wire

Frankly, such was the mood of jollity among the patrons – the bar staff were rather less enthusiastic, unsurprisingly – I was surprised they hadn’t put the ashtrays out on the table.

There was excitement and merriment in the air – people who were told to stay home from work made the best of a bad lot by turning it into a good experience and it was delightful.

The whole community seemed to come together, everyone had a story about their own travails against the blizzard that was whiting-out the city and there was a sense of excitement in the air – we don’t often get weather of such sudden ferocity and the little part of our brains that will forever be a school kid reacted as you would expect.

Anyone who lives in an urban area that wasn’t completely isolated by the ravages of Storm Emma will have a similar story and there was a real sense that people were cocking a snook at both the weather and the Government.

But when the accounts of the last few days are written, it’s the events that occurred in one large urban area, Tallaght, that will dominate.

It takes a peculiar type of genius to wade through a snow storm to steal a JCB and then use it to collapse the roof of a large supermarket. But they did it.

It also takes a peculiar kind of genius to loot the store and post pictures on social media showing off your ill-gotten gains. But they did it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to sully the name of Tallaght in general and Jobstown in particular. But they did that as well.

As events unfolded on Fortunestown Lane on Friday night – in virtual real time, thanks to the fact that our phones have turned everyone into a mini-Spielberg – the shock was replaced by anger and the tawdry, inevitable desire to engage in point-scoring.

Noel Rock, himself a TD from a working class area, used the moment to have a cut off Paul Murphy and seemed to link the smash-and-grab looting to the antics of the People Before Profit TD’s defence of the Jobstown thugs/activists (delete according to political taste) who had kept Joan Burton trapped in her car during the water charge fiasco.

‘Love/Hate’s John Connors tried to burnish his man-of-the-people credentials by saying he wouldn’t report anyone who stole bread to the police, before having a rather self-defeating, nonsensical pop at large companies.

And, of course, the row quickly descended into a debate about whether it was acceptable to refer to the people involved in the crime as ‘scumbags.’

Many people have begun to believe that we live in a culture more obsessed with language than actions and Friday night, and the subsequent fallout from those events, seemed to prove that theory.

In a row that started on social media and quickly moved to the airwaves, the debate focused more on whether the phrase ‘scumbag’ was what we now apparently call a ‘classist’ term; one reserved by middle-class types to denigrate the inhabitants of working-class estates.

Of course, the fact that plenty of people from Jobstown and the surrounding estates like Fettercairn and Killinarden were using epithets which made ‘scumbag’ look like a term of endearment mattered nought to the middle-class language police.

They had decided that they, and they alone, get to choose which words are acceptable in such a situation and which ones are not.

What was interesting, but not surprising, was that many of those who objected to such a term didn’t actually seem to care about the people who will suffer from the closure of that Lidl, which is a vital resource in the area.

No, they were far more interested in proving their spurious social justice credentials by trying to excuse the very behaviour which has been condemned by the only people who matter in this saga – those who actually live in the area and shop and work in Lidl.

That’s always the way whenever a bad story comes out of a working-class area. The hand-wringers and do-gooders who live in the leafier parts of the city decide to clamber to the top of the moral high ground, using the lives of those less fortunate as their ladder.

Even those who were quick to support the area were guilty of the same patronising tone as those who immediately sought to demonise the place.

The people in Tallaght, or Crumlin, or Finglas, or Moyross, or any of the other sink estates in this country which have been largely abandoned by successive governments don’t need well meaning, but naïve middle-class cheerleaders telling the world that they are great people.

The residents in these areas have to live a daily life of struggle against the anti-social gangs and they know who is decent and who is not.

They certainly don’t need to be lectured by people who seem to view them as a separate sub-species, to be examined and explored as if they were a newly discovered tribe.

They’re not. They’re just working stiffs trying to do their best just

like everyone else living in areas where low-level anti-social behaviour is a daily fact of life.

Forget about the tyranny of low expectations, this is the tyranny of no expectations.

One-hundred-and-ten-thousand people live in the greater Tallaght area, and the 109,991 people who weren’t arrested on Friday night don’t appreciate being either insulted or patronised by smug idiots whose lives are so soft and privileged that they can afford to take vicarious offence over a word that, actually, perfectly sums up the perpetrators.

As regards ‘scumbag’ being a classist term?

Well, Jacob Rees Mogg was on TV last week being chased by a load of people chanting ‘Tory scum’ at him.

I doubt anyone would ever accuse the Eton-educated uber toff as being from a disadvantaged background.

Tallaght has plenty of problems, and has long been in dire need of greater investment. What it doesn’t need is either the insults, or condescending platitudes, of people who have never even been to the area.

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