A young person’s experience of violence in Ireland
UNICEF's ENDviolence campaign is calling on world leaders to act
UNICEF have spoken to children and young people all over the world about their experiences of violence. Young survivors of violence from Palestine, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other countries, including Ireland, have made their voices heard through the ENDviolence campaign. They have written a letter to world leaders, calling on them to put an end to the violence that affects millions of children every day. You can read the letter here.
Tommy, who is 16 and from Ireland, was one of the signatories of the letter. Below, he is interviewed by UNICEF about his experiences of violence.
What experience of violence have you had that you wish to talk about in this letter?
My experience of violence is that people think it’s funny, that they’re class. Violence is the norm here and I’m always trying to avoid it because it can come from anyone - Gardai, adults or even people my own age.
I see so much violence between lads. You just walk around the corner and see a group of lads in a big fight, in a big circle, two lads in the middle. I usually run over and look. Where I live has a bad name because of all the violence.
The police will come over with their batons and verbally threaten you and hit you. They hold you by the throat, bash your head against the window, threaten you with children’s court, leave you in a cell for a few hours, all just for standing at a certain place.
I’ve been chased through my own estate, kicked and put in a car by a total stranger for thinking that I did something, that I didn’t do. He brought me up to the police, just left me there and nothing happened. The police did nothing about what had happened to me, they just listened to him. The only cared about what they thought I did.
What do you need to feel safe?
To feel safe, I just have to get along with people - everyone just to be nice to each other and have each other’s backs, especially if people from their own area have each other’s back.
If the police didn’t just threaten you and get you into trouble, I’d feel safe.
People just think it’s funny to pick on certain people. People think they can start on anyone. Everyone is trying to get a name for themselves - I’m from this family so I’m great, as in don’t mess with me. People want to be known as the best fighters.
I think people are learning violence from family and friends, or if they go through something in life, it turns them into that. You’d never see someone who robs houses from a posh family. So much has to do with what you’re surrounded by, the place you’re from and what you see.
No one makes me really feel safe outside my area. Probably only your best mates but that’s about it. You can’t trust anyone else.
I feel safe at home and in school. At home I know nothing is going to happen to me and it’s the same at school. I feel safe in my estate where I know everyone and they know me, they know my face.
What makes you feel unsafe?
I feel unsafe when I see a Gardai car drive by, see a group of lads with their hoods up, seeing one fella on his own. Even just two people on their own is bad. When you see loads of lads in other groups, it’s scary.
If you’re with more than two people you should be alright.
Groups of lads who don’t get on with each other over stupid stuff, like horses or a pushbike, it’s just their pride. They’re too proud to give in so they just fight over it. They don’t want to look soft.
You’d never hear about these issues in more posh places. You wouldn’t even see a horse go through there.
What would you say to world leaders?
Give us more stuff to do in our areas. People go around robbing people’s bikes and phones because they’ve nothing else to do. That’s what people do - they hop on people and take their phones. You think groups are going to rob you.
If I felt safe all the time, I could be myself a bit more and not always look behind me. I could talk about things I want to. You’re too afraid people take things the wrong way and react badly.