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Broken windows and shithead Irish kids in groups

In the early months of 2007 some teenagers broke into vacant houses across the laneway from my apartment in Kilkenny Ireland.

The neighborhood had already been chaotic because it's an out-of-the-way spot in the heart of the city. Near to CBS middle-school in an area where the cops never go, it was popular amongst teens.

Most of the kids were fairly respectful, but there was a lot of borderline antisocial behavior — loudness, graffiti of no craft, and plenty of litter.

It's only fair to note that neither the city nor any other entity provides bins in this area I wouldn't care too much about the vacated buildings, either — it's just property. The owners are probably just waiting for the place to fall apart so that they can legally destroy it.

But evidence suggests that people behave destructively in poorly-maintained areas, and with less respect for people as well as property.

I started to take photos. On a couple of occasions, I made like it was funny — "give us a smile, wouldjya?" — and when they'd look, I'd snap an image. Mostly I just wanted to make people scatter at the sight of a camera.

There became a joke about it, amongst the kids I'd see at the spot below my stair, at the foot of the 19th-century convent mosoleum attached to the medieval city wall. This area, between the segment of wall and the Market Cross Shopping Centre, was composed of so many landowners that nobody ever did anything. The cops wouldn't even go through there.

Sometime in April or May, I heard a girl saying, as I approached, "there's the guy who takes pictures." I walked on, making some friendly benign comment. There were various interactions later, comments about photographs. "Are you going to take my picture?" somebody would ask. "No, no photos this time." ...

Sometime in middle or late May, some lad muttered "pervert" as I walked by. I don't even remember the specific occasion; I just remember that it happened. I probably tried to ignore it as best I could. Hindsight being what it is, I wouldn't do that again.

On the 27th of May, I had a day that had left me a bit aggitated, leaving me stuck in Clonmel in the rain having missed a bus to
Cork. Back in Kilkenny, kind of pissed off and almost home, I noticed a group of kids, but didn't look at them. As I passed out of sight beyond the end of the old city wall, one of the lads called out "pervert." ...

I went back filled with rage. I asked who wanted a slap. I wasn't really going to hit anybody, of course, for mere words. I've since questioned the wisdom of this decision.

On the next day, a Monday, I felt I wanted to talk to the gardsan garda síochiána, the Irish police. When I passed the garda barracks, there were people in the lobby, and when I saw a couple going in ahead of me with a packet of documents I walked on. Go back later, I thought.

There is a greenway between the Gaol Road and Walkin Street known as "the Closh." A lot of kids were there when I passed by. I noticed four lads, 15 to 16, dressed in Christian Brothers middle-school attire. I felt them looking at me, but I dismissed it as paranoia.

"Pervert," one yelled, laughing. Then another — and it started a chorus amongst them of gleeful shouts, the same word over and over.

I tried as best I could to show minimal response. Sticks and stones, after all....

But now I was truly agonized and, of course, truly afraid. Now I was getting accused in public of having malignant character — and by a group of people whom I did not even recognize.

And the epithet "pervert," in Ireland, is heavy disparagement. One need only ask anybody my age about the Christian Brothers themselves, back in those days, to hear astonishing tales of real child abuse. Anybody can tell stories of the violence. Only recently has anybody begun to be able to talk about the rape.

Ireland has a deep sexual cultural-identity crisis. There's a viciousness, a hatefulness, that expresses itself in sexual terms, in the words of the offspring of the victims of the abuses of the Catholic church.