The term ‘rules and regulations’ are pretty well always bandied together; but there is a big difference in how these two words are applied in Ireland – and the gap is widening. The fact is that ‘regulations’ are stringently applied, because this is easy; whilst rules are not enforced because there is effort involved. Rules are there to be broken and the only non-compliers who pay any price are those guilty of the ‘easily caught’ variety.

Business people, farmers and all categories of ‘doers’ are being regulated into a compound of despair. For every inspiration or initiative, there is somebody sitting at a desk, single-mindedly programmed with the message; ‘no, you cannot do this’ – or ‘fill in form X227, YP 237, or Zi23, and then make your application to the officer in charge of bamboozlement.

There are twelve and a half thousand unfortunate people in emergency accommodation, hundreds sleeping on the streets, and thousands more crammed into benevolent sharing with family or friends. All this whilst the country is dotted with empty dry, spacious and comfortable buildings.

Many of these vacant houses are perfectly habitable and have reared families until recent times; but now, neither the owner or the sad couple standing outside in the rain have any say in whether or not a person can sleep or shelter in the house.

‘Mr Regulations’, cocooned in his nice warm office, or arriving, billboard in hand, is the sole arbitrator as to what arrangement a property owner or prospective tenant can agree upon.

Last week I heard of planning permission being turned down for much needed living accommodation because a small window would overlook a close-by building. This is in a town where every window overlooks something!

We have the most obese children in Europe; but no way can a community be allowed to organise a children’s sports event, due to ‘restrictions and regulations’.  The country is awash with parish and community halls; still ideal for a bit of music and social dancing; but no way, dear people, not anymore – because ‘Mr Health’ and ‘Mrs Safety’ says you cannot be trusted to mind yourselves! Individual choice and group responsibility is a thing of the past … due to ‘regulations’!

Now, ‘rules’ are entirely a different kettle of fish. Some are there in name only whilst others, unlike ‘regulations’, go by default because they ‘are difficult to enforce.’

There are rules prohibiting littering, illegal dumping and pollution; but the person sitting at the environmental desk, isn’t driven by the same urgency to go out with the clip-board and deal with this one. The perpetrators are not ‘easily caught.’

‘Rules of the Road’ are just one big joke … unless you are easily caught, of course. You have a one in nine chance of being caught for speeding in Canada. It used to be one in two hundred in Ireland – but my guess is the odds are even more in favour of the speedster these days. I would bet that the ‘one in two hundred’ is more likely to be caught technically speeding in a built up area, than out on the open road.

This is not intended as a criticism of the gardai – whose job is difficult enough as it is and they are the ones who have to play by the rules. When you hear of a garda being prosecuted, under the road traffic act, for chasing convicted criminals … what can one say …

There are rules there to say that a man or woman cannot be brutally attacked while walking on the street. Sadly and disgustingly, this rule is not worth the paper it us written on. Our nation recently woke up to the horror story of an American tourist being savagely assaulted on a Dublin street. Since then, American visitors are being warned by their embassy that Dublin is not a safe place. Our minister for justice has said the opposite; and how in the name of God can the authorities maintain credibility when making such statements that every person knows this is not how it is.

It isn’t just Dublin. Every town is dangerous late at night but these more rural assaults don’t get the same airtime as a high profile attack – and a photo-call outside a garda station is not the answer to the problem

Back to the rules: Young, feral thugs have nothing to fear from rules. Nothing will be done to them: But, if the Gardaí, or a citizen defending their property don’t adhere to the rules laid down for them, they will be punished for breaking rules under the ‘easily caught’ formula.

The justice system was founded under the premise; ‘did he know what he was doing – and did he know that if caught he would be punished.’ The young thugs are not being punished – so make up your mind about the rest.

Yes, it is tough on young people trapped in disadvantaged areas. But maybe … just maybe, if ‘Mr Regulations’ permitted a family to live in an empty house, instead of in Direct Provision, there would be less chaos on the streets.


Don’t Forget

Our crime experts seem to know everything about crime except how to stop it.