The problem of Dungannon’s bored teenagers and the high number of police cautions given to them has sparked a furious online debate between politicians, youth workers and concerned parents.
Half way through the summer holidays, and many local parents are in the throes of dealing with bored teenagers hanging around the house or getting into trouble at nights.
Spurred on by last week’s story in the Tyrone Times, in which Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan blamed lack of social activities as one of the reasons for the high number of cautions for anti-social behaviour, local teenagers posted about their frustration on the Tyrone Times Facebook page.
“If you ask any young person what is there to do in Dungannon they’ll say nothing”, said one reader. “Most young people move to Belfast, is it any wonder? Proper jobs, proper entertainment, Dungannon is dead in the water.”
Another Facebook user said: “There is nothing to do for young people in Dungannon! There’s a reason why most people at 18 go overseas or down south. The council closed down things like the drop in centre because of lack of funding.
“All there is to do for some craic is pile into each other’s cars and go for spins.”
A stressed out mother from the town added her voice to their chorus of complaints.
“Truthfully there is nothing for the children to do, I don’t believe in criminal activities but there is literally nothing for teenagers to do, I contacted a few summer schemes for my child to go to over the summer. He is 13 so he is too old. Rather disappointed to say the least.”
However, Ms McGahan’s comments were criticised by other politicians and youth workers in the town.
SDLP Councillor Denise Mullan suggested that Ms McGahan would be better suited to spend her time securing funding for local youth services.
She said: “Parental or guardian guidance and responsibility plays the key role in this. The council continuously brings the relevant agencies and community groups together to tease out the best way forward for our youth.”
Local youth workers also advised politicians to go out and meet young people themselves.
They accused polticians of not knowing about the valuable services youth centres were providing for the young people of the town.
Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan raised her concerns after a Freedom of Information request revealed that 251 local youths have been cautioned by the police in the past four years.
Research by the National Citizen Service, the country’s flagship youth programme, found that while younger children are filled with excitement by the summer holidays, teenagers are less than delighted with six in ten struggling to find things to keep them occupied.