I’d love to see society return to the happy days when I lived at my grandmother’s home in Stewartstown’s North Street.
Then, Gran could leave her front door open wide, dander up the street to a friend’s house for a cuppa and a chat; then dander back to find the house as safe and secure as when she had left it.
There’s no way that would happen in today’s violent society. If the elderly didn’t get mugged on the way up the street, they’d probably come back to find their homes ransacked.
There’s even been cases of sick perverts who raped or abused elderly women. But these days can return provided the authorities stop taking a pussy foot attitude with thugs and hoods in our communities.
For a start, we need the death penalty back again for convicted murderers. DNA testing has advanced considerably so the chances of someone being wrongly sent to the electric chair would be minimal.
Convicted child killers should automatically fry in the chair. Prisons today resemble more like Continental holiday homes than jails. Too much cash is being wasted on keeping convicted thugs, hoods and other assorted criminals amused behind bars.
An American system should be adopted where prison life is a hard grind so the criminal leaves never wanting to return.
The sad reality is that many working class criminals have a better lifestyle behind bars than when they ‘enjoyed’ their lives on crime in the back streets of some town or city.
Think of the taxpayers’ cash which could be saved and invested in cutting the waiting lists or employing more nurses if education and sports facilities were chopped from prison budgets?
How many potholes in the roads, public parks maintained and dog poop scrapped from pavements if inmates were formed into American-style chain gangs to work 16 to 18 hour days making our urban and rural communities better places to live?
And as for the convicted sex offenders and paedophiles, there is far too much emphasis on their supposed human rights. What about the human rights and dignities of their victims?
It is right that every convicted sex offender should be placed on a register – but for life. People, too, have the right to know if a convicted sex offender who has served his or her sentence, is being relocated in their communities.
More importantly, such convicted rapists, sex offenders and paedophiles should be chemically and medically neutered so that physically they no longer pose a threat to potential victims upon their release.
But what about the teen tearaways and the primary school thugs who terrorise many a community, but seem untouchable because of the law? The hard fact is, the so-called Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and restorative justice schemes are a waste of time.
For many of these young bucks, an ASBO at 11 is a badge of honour. Many are too immature to understand what they’ve done. So the answer to make the parents pay.
Every time your kid does a crime, the mums and dads do the time or pay the fines. Hit these irresponsible parents in the pockets with stiff fines and they’ll soon start to take a keen interest in what their brats are doing on Friday evenings after 11.30 pm.
Another essential problem is that many of these primary and teen brats know their rights. Just try challenging these pig-ignorant little vermin when they are throwing water bombs at your home or shooting BB guns at your front windows at midnight.
The chances are, you will be visited by the police for threatening behaviour, or else you’ll have near-psycho parents banging on your front door complaining how their wee Micky was left traumatised by you shouting at him.
The fact he was running a screwdriver up the side of your new car of course does not matter to these thick parents who see their kids as a Golden Child.
There’s an answer to this dilemma, too. The establishment of Neighbourhood Watch Schemes with powers to make citizens arrests of local yobs without landing the ‘Watchers’ in court on assault charges.
And its high time the police revived the long-since defunct Manx policy of administering the birch to troublesome thugs. A ticking off from a copper or a judge doesn’t fizz on their pea-brain mentality – six of the best by a birch across the bare backside would make them think again about urinating in a pension’s garden on the way home from the pub.
Many churches in society try to tackle the problem head-on by providing youth clubs, coffee bars and drop-in facilities for the local yobs, who claim their vandalising and terrorising streaks are caused by boredom.
But again the trouble is many of these church-run groups don’t enforce a strict code of conduct and the young hoods run rings around the do-gooding Christian workers or Bible thumpers.
But the situation needs to be urgently tackled before frustrated, tax-paying, good-living citizens decide to bypass the forces of law and order and begin hiring professional vigilantes to crack a few skulls among the teenage gangs.
Yet again, once you bring professional vigilantes into an area, it is only a matter of time before the political paramilitaries want in themselves to get a piece of the lucrative protection racket business.
The real worry is – how long does society have to wait until the authorities get really tough with these young hoods? Are we waiting until another granny suffers a fatal heart attack because yobs are pelting her roof with stones?
Will they wait until another young child takes their own life, or has a nervous breakdown because of bullying teenagers, or will they wait until a frustrated dad takes an iron bar to a teen thug bullying his handicapped son? Whatever your thoughts, the clock is ticking and the community pot bubbling.
In the early 1990s, I frequently drove through Tyrone in my then role as Director of Public Relations for the Sandown Group of Private Nursing Homes. As a son of the Presbyterian Manse, I’ve always had an eye for the design of the clerical home.
But one thought always struck me – Tyrone has some of the most dreary parochial houses in the North. Surely, the time has come to allow priests, nuns and all those in Catholic Holy Orders the choice of marriage.
In the past few years, the Catholic Church has taken a real pasting over paedophile priests and abusive nuns. This has resulted in many areas of Ireland in the dilution of the power of the pulpit, especially among the younger generation.
The big task facing the Catholic hierarchy in the remainder of this decade is how to restore trust in the clergy. The answer is simple – making the priesthood and Holy Orders more appealing by allowing them the choice of a celibate life, or marriage.
Let’s make another thing clear; if the Catholic Church wants to initiate a rebirth of family values, would blessings for civil partnerships be the solution? Fundamentalists and evangelicals within the Christian theological spectrum can be very quick to remind folk what our Lord did to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament?
Likewise, look how the issue of gay clergy has split the world-wide Anglican movement. The Catholic Church does not need a war with openly gay priests on top of the issue of what defines the institution of marriage.
Just think of the caring family perception the Church could give if parishioners saw the priest with his wife and children playing in the gardens of parochial houses?
Gone forever would be the farcical image of such houses as presented in the popular Channel Four sitcom, Father Ted.
Such a move on marriage would be about freedom of choice – we’re not forcing priests and bishops to marry. If they chose to remain celibate, that’s okay. If they meet the woman of their dreams and marry – why should Catholic clergy be denied the emotion of love?
And another way it would restore confidence in the Catholic clergy is avoiding the ridiculous situation of single virgin priests in their mid-20s trying to offer sexual advice to married couples in their 40s!
The same debate is about to be reignited within the broad Presbyterian family in Ireland. The mainstream Irish Presbyterian Church is staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage, whereas the smaller Presbyterian denomination, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church (also known as the Unitarians) largely favours same-sex marriage.
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Listen to religious commentator Dr John Coulter’s slot, Call Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, as part of the ‘At The Table’ show.