Wednesday, 19th September 2018
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

"Is it safe?"

Some might remember the 1976 film "Marathon Man", starring Dustin Hoffmam, Roy Scheider and Laurence Olivier, who played the very sinister Dr Christian Szell - a film about Nazi war criminals and stolen diamonds. This was one of my Father's all time favourite films. One I can recall watching with him, as a wee boy of 10 or 11 years of age.

It is amazing that we can all remember one or two particular scenes from our favourite movies. That shock, deep intake of breath moment in the Stephen Rea film, "The Crying Game". You know the one! The one that nobody talked about after leaving the cinema. This made that film and was probably one of the best kept movie secrets of the early nineties.

The scene that would be remembered by most in the "Marathon Man" is of course the torturing of Dustin Hoffman's "Baby", by Olivier. It is when he takes out that dentist's drill and starts to repair a few fillings, without any anaesthetic, that you begin to squirm and writhe, on your comfy lounge chair. To add to the tension, Olivier keeps asking "Is it safe?" and Hoffman has no idea what he is talking about. So the cycle of drill, that familiar whizzing noise and pain continues.

If you had any fear of the dentist, then this was NOT the film to be watching. I can only imagine that thousands of people were put off visiting their "Tooth-fairy," after watching "Marathon Man". In the end Hoffman exacts revenge on the greedy, nasty, dental-Nazi and summary justice is served in Central Park. At gunpoint, Olivier refuses to be forced to swallow the recovered diamonds. A tussle ensues, he stumbles and falls on his own knife. Hoffman heads off into Central Park, throwing his gun into the reservoir.

Unfortunately, there has been an awful lot of chat, about how safe is Waterford City. After yet again another unpleasant incident in John Robert's Square. Social media played its part, promoting the video of two women fighting in sight of shoppers, families and tourists. It appears that the same people were involved in cajoling and encouraging these two women to "Punch, kick and batter!" one another. This is not the first time we've had to witness such unnecessary behaviour, nor will it be the last.

These were not irresponsible teenagers. These were not gangs of youths, rampaging uncontrollably through our City Centre. These were people known to the Garda. Do these types of incidents make our City Centre unsafe? They certainly make very unpleasant viewing and thanks to the reach of social media they give unwanted National headlines.

The courts see "Trouble-makers" week after week. More often than not they are let off with a slap on the wrist and released, to roam the streets once again. The lack of heavy sentencing does not act as a deterrent. People who misbehave and break the law must be punished. Alas, our courts do not seem to concur with this logic.

There are of course much wider social issues which have to be tackled, to rid our streets of all manner of "Trouble-makers or undesirables". There simply are not the resources to give many of these people a chance. The harsh reality is, that those who do not wish to be helped, need to be dealt with by the courts and removed from our streets.

Waterford City is fundamentally a safe place to visit. To make it safer we all must play our part.

People who are willing to report incidents in newsprint, media or on the airwaves, must be prepared to report to the Garda and if necessary be witnesses to the crimes they are reporting. If a case cannot be made in front of a judge, then there is no case to answer in the eyes of the law. Crime, anti-social behaviour, aggressive begging and all other unacceptable conduct will prevail, if we the members of the public, don't step up to the plate.

Confrontation is very difficult to engage in, yet as responsible citizens we must ensure that the Garda hear and note every incident. If our "Keepers of the Peace" don't act, THEN they can be held accountable.

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