The author of this article doesn’t do much in the way of condemning the rape of a then-15 year old by five young men. Instead, she describes the court setting; the young men were well dressed, they were certainly not from bad homes. Will the young men be tried in the District or Circuit Court? Whichever will provide the shortest sentence, probably. Either way, they will be remanded on bail until next year. The fifth accused was excused from yesterday’s hearing. So far, so descriptive. We’ve seen it all before.
The main problem isn’t the troublingly descriptive nature with which the serial rape of an under-age woman is drawn into the piece. Although this is, of course, a problem. The real issue is the judgemental and classist tone when describing the ‘kinds of people’ who usually frequent courts. In Ireland, we have this hypocritical attitude to so many things. When it comes to class, we are utterly exceptionalist. We act as if class doesn’t exist, because we don’t have the same overt class gradient as exists in other countries, we are a more homogeneous population generally, and in many ways our identities are drawn along different boundaries than ‘class’. But that doesn’t mean class doesn’t exist, and ignoring it does us all a disservice.
Why does this journalist dedicate so much space to juxtaposing the crimes of 5 men from an ‘upmarket South Dublin suburb’, to the type of young people that we are supposed to be believe belong within the criminal justice system? Why the need to mention the tracksuits, the absent parents, time spent in care? If this were an article about the UK there would be any number of tropes with which to depict these young men, chavs being the most prominent. But we lack the vocabulary with which to critically engage with what class means in Irish society.
To cite another example, I read an article a few months ago that made me feel uncomfortable on many levels [http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/a-spice-bag-and-a-sneaky-naggin-say-hello-to-the-dublin-hun-1.2376230]. It justified piss-taking as our ‘national pass time’, failing to acknowledge that the piss-taking in this example is at the expense of some Dublin women’s working class culture. The project the article is based on is defensible, apparently, because the illustrator in question comes originally from Coolock.
In Ireland, in academia, the media, in political and social life, we claim that class doesn’t exist. We’re all equal. Ireland, Land of the Flat Hierarchy. Where the Taoiseach went to your old school and you vote for your neighbour in the elections because he’s gas craic. We’re only taking the piss, and nothing you say when you’re taking the piss is meant literally. As a nation, we would prefer to put our fingers in our ears and go ‘na na na, doesn’t count’. But I’m sorry, it does count, and it’s making hypocrites of us all.
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