When I was a young man I rarely went out for a pint. Or two. If I went out drinking with my equally scurrilous friends, we had one ambition: to get pleasantly tanked. The amount of wise things we said then, the occasional scuffles we engaged in, were part of learning to be adult. Meanwhile, to be alive and young was very heaven.
Has the rest of the grown-up world had that key part of their memory-bank burgled, or were they always the dull, upright dogs they are today? I listened to a discussion on the BBC ‘s TalkBack programme today about the drinking and irresponsibility of students in Belfast’s Holylands over the St Patrick’s Day period, and was not so much struck as bludgeoned by their shock-horror at some of the things the Holylands young people have done, and how best to prevent them doing anything like them again this year.
I know drink is bad for you, and excessive drink worse. I also know that when you’re young, you do silly, stupid and gloriously uninhibited things that you abandon when you get older and ‘get sense’. But if the custodians of good behaviour have their way, anybody that gets langers this year in the Holylands will risk finding themselves kicked out of college and maybe with a criminal record. The off-licences have nodded solemnly and agreed to shut shop for most of Paddy’s Day.
Has anybody been killed in the Holylands over the St Patrick’s Day period in the past decade? Anybody seriously injured? That’s good. Daft, yes, drunk, yes, dead , no.
How different from the recent clash between factions of the UDA in Carrickfergus, which has left one man dead and the expectation of further violence and possible death very real. The peace-loving people there, we’re told, are feeling frightened and helpless. A bunch of students robbing you of your beauty sleep begins to seem not all that terrible.
Wouldn’t the continued existence of paramilitary groupings, clearly armed, be a real cause for public outcry and demands for police action? Suddenly, the Holylands behaviour of students seems what it is: the indiscretions of youth. Try not to envy them too much.