Michael Obafemi – Mind the Gap, Please: Being Young and Irish Is Not So Black-and-White

Don’t Mind the Gap, Please! Being Young and Irish Is Not So Black-and-White

The Bad Black Irish

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On New Year’s Eve, entering 2018, a taxi driver picked two teenage males from Gardiner Street in the Dublin City Centre to Ongar, Dublin 15. According to media reports, on getting to the Hazelbury Park area of Clonee, west Dublin, the driver was threatened with a gun and robbed. The driver was said to have started his shift not quite long before the incident hence did not have enough cash on him. He was only robbed of his iPhone. Gardai would later identify the gun used in the robbery as fake. Media reports described the two suspects as being black teenagers.

This is but one in a spate of criminal mischief allegedly committed by black teenagers in Ireland. Before this particular robbery incident, taxi drivers were robbed in the Tyrrelstown area on 10 December, 12 December and 17 December 2017.

But the target victims were not only taxi drivers, they included two UPS delivery men. “At first there was reports of them robbing other teens and shops, then taxi drivers, now it’s delivery men. What they’re doing is setting up fake UPS accounts under false IDs, getting things like phones and tablets delivered to one of their hideouts, and ganging up and beating the driver when he arrives, taking what they can,” reports the Irish Sun:

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From robbery to Schoolboy gangs, in Blanchardstown and up to north county Dublin, teenage thugs continue to hold sway, committing a number of vicious assaults, robberies, violent disorder and criminal damage. The Irish Sun claimed that this gang call themselves “The Pesties” and are of “African origins.”

To give credence to this report by The Irish Sun, a black 14-year-old and another boy aged 16, allegedly the leaders of the gang, would later be charged with three counts of robberies of taxi drivers in the Tyrrelstown area on 10, 12 and 17 December 2017 and on 10 April 2018. The 14-year old boy pleaded guilty “to one charge of robbery of a driver of a phone worth €400 and cash which was taken from the taxi man at Curragh Hall.”

The Good Black Irish

But it will be unfair to tar all the young Black Irish with the same brush because there are good young blacks making Ireland proud. Way back in 2007, long before this narrative of alleged Black robbers and gangs dominated the media space, Abdusalam Abubakar made all the headlines for a good reason. The then 16-year-old African Irish beat more than 3,000 students with 1,278 projects to scoop the BT Young Scientist of the Year award and went on to represent Ireland in Valencia that year in the European Young Scientist competition.

Now fast forward to 2018 to meet Sharon Omiwole, an African Irish who is the new face of Science in Ireland. On Thursday, 12 April 2018, the University College Dublin Medical student was named the national winner of FameLab Ireland 2018. FameLab is “the prestigious competition which aims to discover charismatic, up-and-coming scientists who inspire people to see the world from a new perspective.” Sharon went to represent Ireland at the International Finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK.

Adeyemi Talabi is another Black Irish getting accolades and bringing glory to Ireland. In June 2018, the 15-year-old broke the national record in long jump with a new Record of 6.02M at the All Ireland schools Championship (Tullamore). Earlier in March, Adeyemi had also won Silver in the 60m Sprint at the Athletics Ireland National Juvenile Indoor Finals. What Adeyemi is doing in athletics, prodigiously talented Michael Obafemi is replicating in football. This African Irish footballer is one of the most talented players in Ireland. The 18-year-old Southampton striker made his debut for the Ireland National Team in Ireland’s goalless Nations League draw in Denmark on Monday, 19 November 2018 becoming the first player born this century to be capped by the Republic of Ireland.

The Bad White Irish

Just as not all young black Irish are bad, it is not all bad young Irish are Black. There are bad white Irish too and you don’t need to go too far back in time to find one. On 27 August 2010, 18-year-old Jonathan Byrne raped, beat and strangled Michaela Davis in Clonsilla, Dublin 15. Michaela was just 12-years-old and Jonathan is neither Black nor of African descent.

Now fast forward to 2018. On Monday, 14 May 2018, Anastasia Kriegel left her home in Lexlip and never returned. Three days after she went missing, the 14-year-old was found beaten, naked and dead at a disused farmhouse in Lucan. Gardai investigation revealed that she was brutally murdered by a 13-year-old, yes, you read me right: thirteen-years-old! Although the culprit was not identified due to his age, we know he is neither Black nor of African descent.

What the above examples tell us are that not all young Black Irish are into crime and not all crimes in Ireland are committed by young Black Irish. Now that we have made these points very clear, the question then is: what is it about Irish youth that while some of them are raising Ireland up, others are pulling it down? To answer this question, let us look at some Statistics.

The CSO Statistics

The 2017 annual report of the committee appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme, reveals that almost 1 in 10 of all crimes reported in Ireland are committed by young people under 18.

Some may argue that the reason for such high rate of youth crime in Ireland is due to family set up and upbringing. This makes sense. There seems to be a prevalence of children growing up in a single parent home. Although, Ireland’s divorce rate is remarkably low compared to other countries in Europe, the information released in 2017 by the Central Statistics Office for 2016 (CSO) shows that 103,895 people living in Ireland are divorced, a significant increase in the 2011 Census. Some have also argued that poverty is another major factor that influences the youth crime. Again, this makes sense. CSO statistics show that 790,000 people in Ireland are living in poverty. That is over 16% of the population.

Behind the Statistics

There are many other factors and there are statistics to show. But we will leave it at that. However, the worrying thing is that when we read these statistics, we think only of the adults as the only ones behind these numbers; we forget the children. We must learn to scratch the surface because behind that divorce rate lurks children whose worlds crumbled with that marriage wall. For example, young people in these homes no longer have a father figure for discipline; a father who they look up to, respect and, perhaps, fear.  Even in a situation where both parents are still together, some of these parents are too busy pursuing career and other personal interests that they neglect the upbringing of their children. Included in that CSO 16% poverty rate are over 250,000 children. Poverty is not just the parents who cannot afford basic needs; it implicates the children who depend on the parents for survival. They suffer as a result.

Conclusion

What we have done so far is to highlight some of the challenges facing youth in today’s Ireland, though it is not exhaustive. And what this write-up generally argues for is that being young and Irish is deeper than the skin colour: those yobs causing havoc in the Blanchardstown area, or those egg-heads taking home all Awards in science, or the incredible talents breaking records in Athletics and football are not doing so because they are black nor because they have an African blood flowing in their veins; and being a psychopath who rape and butcher innocent girls for sexual gratification is not defined by the whiteness of the skin of the perpetrators. So, when we report about youth crime in Ireland, please don’t mind the gap! It is not a Black or White Irish thing!

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