Rarely, and only in daylight hours, will you see a member of An Garda Síochána – the Irish police force – walking a beat around the council flats of the inner city. The time of the friendly neighbourhood beat cop is a long time gone; having been replaced for some decades by the frequent and intimidating presence of the passing riot police van, squad car, or the unmarked, but obvious, undercover car. Police officers do not know the names of the young people in the inner city, unless, that is, the youngster is known to the Gardaí. Pretty much the only interaction the police in this part of the city have with the young people is when they get out of their motor vehicles to conduct humiliating Section 23 drugs searches, and run their names through ‘the system’ for warrants, bail and probation violations, and Antisocial Behaviour Orders. When youngsters are handed down these awful ASBOs for as little as keeping racing pigeons it is safe to assume the police will always catch some teenager in violation of something. It is small wonder then that the people living in the flats and other council housing accommodation dislike and mistrust the police.

It is striking that the flats complexes in the inner city have a single road access point. This would imply that even when they were on the architect’s drawing board the City Council was thinking ahead. What they were building were ghettoes designed for ease of policing and control. For all intents and purposes they were imagined as prisons for the as yet un-convicted, and the people who live in the flats say as much themselves. Every day, without exception, throughout the day and the night, the police will patrol the flats; reminding the people who live in them that they are being watched. None of this is for their security. It is nothing more than a social control measure intended to keep these people in their place. Anyone living under these conditions will tell that this régime leaves them feeling violated and powerless, and so it seems natural that every so often there is revolt against the police. In fact, social resistance is the norm in the flats. Any time a police van or car approaches the entrance, those who see it let out a loud whistle which is repeated by its hearers all the way to the very back of the complex. Even when there is nothing illegal happening the warning is sounded because the folk know from hard experience that the police will find something.

Jason Michael
Blog Author


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