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Mums Beg Gardai to Lock Up Their Children -- Priest
Irish Independent, Monday February 15 2010, by Barry Duggan

A PARISH priest has told how mothers living in one of the country's most deprived neighbourhoods are pleading with gardai to lock up their children as they cannot control them.

Fr Pat Hogan, who works in the Limerick city suburb of Southill, said it was difficult to deal with juveniles engaged in crime or anti-social behaviour because of their young age.

The southside suburb is earmarked for a major regeneration project, but fears have been raised for the future of the government scheme due to the poor condition of the state coffers.

Fr Hogan, one of the most respected priests in Limerick, said he was fully behind the regeneration programme, which aims to tackle social problems in four neighbourhoods across the city.

"We hear a lot of stories about young children aged eight to 12 causing a lot of trouble -- anti-social behaviour. That comes from not engaging in school or anything like that and families breaking down," he said.

"It is very hard to do anything with a 12-year-old child who is causing trouble -- law can't touch him. We have experience of mothers, and I have known them myself, who actually plead with the guards to lock up a child of 12, 13 or 14."

Fr Hogan said parents would tell gardai: "'I can't take him, I can't handle him, he is destroying the home, he is destroying the neighbourhood. He'll kill himself or he'll kill somebody else, can you lock him up?'

"They'll (the gardai) say, 'We can't,' so there is a big problem at that age."

He said the residents of Southill were among the finest people he had ever come across.

"I have worked in many parishes, including parishes abroad, and I have never met a finer people to work with than in Southill.

"There is a small percentage of people causing trouble and, very often, that trouble comes from the break-up of families."

Fr Hogan said the only hope for people living in these neighbourhoods was regeneration.

"These people need hope, however slowly it comes. It needs to change for the people and it needs to change for Limerick."

He called on all the elected representatives and politicians from Limerick to work together and have a united front in Dublin to fight for the city.

"In this city, we need to sort out who is actually responsible for this city -- it needs leadership," Fr Hogan added.

- Barry Duggan