Fianna Fáil Councillor, Frankie Keena, has suggested reducing the children’s allowance of families who blatantly allow their children to engage in petty crime and anti-social behaviour on a persistent basis.
Councillor Keena introduced the motion at the Athlone Municipal District meeting on Monday in response to calls he has received from locals reporting the anti-social behaviour of particular teens in their vicinity. Keena called on the council to write to the Minister for Social Protection requesting her to put procedures in place whereby children’s allowance can be reduced to the parents of those teens.
Councillor Keena said: “There is a relatively small group of parents who do not take responsibility for their children. These children are causing mayhem in their localities, damaging people’s houses and cars and hurling verbal abuse at innocent people. Their parents are not taking responsibility for them, and are allowing them to continue like this.
“I propose that we write to the Minister for Social Protection to put procedures in place whereby these parents are penalised through a reduction in their children’s allowance. Gardaí can do little about children who keep offending. Something needs to be done locally and nationally. People are frequently calling me and are very upset.”
Independent Councillor, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, agreed with much of what Keena had to say, but urged caution: “I would be afraid that such a move would hit the wrong people. You have to focus on legislation and the courts. With very young people, of ages six to 12, the Gardaí have no power. Legislation is needed to punish the parents.
“Some parents are happy to take a fine or even spend a day in prison to avoid a fine. It is an absolute farce. These people should be punished in some way. Councillor Keena is correct in saying something needs to be done, but we must make sure we are punishing the right people.”
Sinn Féin Councillor, Paul Hogan, echoed Moran’s words: “There is not one of us that hasn’t received a call about anti-social behaviour, but the motion has the potential to affect innocent people. Legislation exists to punish a parent who neglects their child, but this legislation needs to be enforced. The whole system in relation to this problem is wholly inaccurate and something needs to change, but we have to make sure we are punishing the right people.”
Fine Gael Councillor John Dolan called for further discussion on the topic: “It is a small portion causing a lot of crime in the localilty. The one place we can hit families like this is in the pocket. Money from these people’s allowance should be used to support the victims of their crimes. The days of sitting by and not discussing it are gone.”