December 31, 2015

Nativity drama playing out in every Irish family is changing our society

Posted in Irish Independent · 43 comments ·

Do you remember ‘The Snapper’? Roddy Doyle’s classic second book of the Barrytown Trilogy, published in 1990, revolves around the Rabbitte family and the teenage pregnancy of Sharon Rabbitte.


Written in the late 1980s, it is a familiar tale about a family dealing with a teenage pregnancy and how the birth of the Snapper itself brings the family closer.

When I was a teenager, teen pregnancies were the stuff of growing up, like drinking in fields, 12-inch singles and smoking your first Major.

In 1990, 6pc of all mothers in Ireland were under 20. On our road in suburban Dublin, when an unmarried girl became pregnant, it was treated as if the sky had fallen in. News always travelled fast. Initially, particularly amongst the sanctimonious, there’d be all sorts of gossip and chatter about the girl as if a girl could get pregnant on her own. A mate of mine’s mother used to warn us boys as we headed out the door on a Saturday night, “Remember now lads, they can’t get half-pregnant”!

Back then, I didn’t really know what she meant. I was a bit slow. Now I get it. The truth is that all data show that teenage pregnancies are hard on the mother, the family and the baby. Over the years, teenage pregnancy has been an accurate indicator of relative poverty because obviously it is very difficult for a young mother to build a career or stay in education if she has a baby to look after.

And the evidence from the US (where they have the most relevant data) shows that your mid-twenties are very important in terms of building a solid career foundation. For example, people who are not working for long periods in their twenties never recover financially. They still earn less than the average by the time they are 40 and 50. So these years are crucial economically and, if you are looking after a young baby or child in these critical years, it is hard to catch up financially.

The good news is that teenage pregnancy has fallen in Ireland to the lowest level on record and is still falling every year.

This year, fewer than 2pc of babies will be born to mothers under 20. Teenage pregnancy in Ireland is disappearing fast, despite the fact that the age at which Irish teenagers lose their virginity is also falling rapidly. A recent Unicef report found that Irish girls are more likely than boys to have lost their virginity by their mid-teens; 22pc of Irish girls had sex at the age of 15 or younger, with the figure for boys at 19pc. Four out of 10 respondents to the Unicef survey lost their virginity after drinking alcohol – no surprise there.

Yet in the past decade, from 2003 to 2013, there has been a staggering 51pc fall in the numbers of babies born to women under 20. This is a phenomenal change in behaviour.

Obviously use of contraception is the major reason for the fall in pregnancy. It is hard to believe that contraception was illegal in this country not so long ago.

However, the falling trend in teenage pregnancy is not unique to Ireland; we are seeing similar patterns in the UK and the US. In the US, some economists have argued that popular TV programmes such as MTV’s hugely successful ’16 and Pregnant’ – which was initially criticised for glamorizing teenage pregnancy – has actually had the opposite effect. The show started in 2009 and since then there has been a 10pc fall in the number of teenage girls in the US having children. Researchers wanted to know why. By mapping the online reaction to the show via Twitter, Facebook and online Google searches, they saw a spike in searches for words like “contraception” and “abortion” coincident with the show. Meanwhile on Twitter, hashtags such as “don’t forget your pill” or “remember birth control” accompanied comments on the show.

When presented with the reality of teenage motherhood, including arguments with the boyfriend, not having enough money or not being able to go out partying with the mates, many teenagers have reacted with caution rather than abandon.

Whatever the reasons – be they social, scientific or anecdotal – teenage pregnancy is disappearing fast. Meanwhile, the number of older women having babies is increasing rapidly. In Ireland in the past 10 years, the number of women over 40 having babies has increased by a staggering 78pc.

In 2003, 2,250 mothers were over 40; by 2013, that figure had risen to 4,004 and it is rising progressively every year.

So we now have the oldest Irish mothers on record. Look at the chart. It shows the trend in the average age of the Irish mother since 1955. Having fallen rapidly until the 1980s, Irish mothers have been getting older. Even the average age of the first-time mother has increased from 28 to 30 in the past 10 years. These differences may seem small, but they are revolutionary because they reveal a significant change in the place of women in Irish society and in the Irish economy over the past 10 years. Nothing more underscores the freedom of women than the freedom to choose when they want to have children. We see this all over the world. The single best indicator of the equality of the sexes and economic development in societies is family size. Poor countries have big families and vice versa, and poor countries are also those societies where women are least equal.

In Ireland, girls are now outperforming boys in all academic league tables. From the Leaving Cert results to university degrees, women are doing better than men. Certain professions that used to be the preserve of the successful man, such as the law and the medical profession, are being gradually feminised. This is resulting in Irish women having fewer babies but having them later in life. Their daughters, seeing this trend and maybe, even subconsciously, taking it on board, are not getting pregnant when they are teenagers despite having more sex, younger than their mothers.

These are profound changes; they are permanent and are rooted in changed expectations and aspirations on the part of Irish women. They have deep ramifications for education, child-care, housing and taxation policies in the country. At this time of the year, when we speak of nativity plays and their meanings, the one with the most resonance – economically at least – is the nativity drama playing out in every Irish family before our very eyes.

  1. Mike Lucey

    Interesting subject. Only a few days ago I noticed this article,

    ‘Women who give birth in their 30s more likely to have intelligent children’

    So it probably a good thing for the country that women are leaving it later to have babies.

  2. StephenKenny

    Family life is changing in many ways. It’s also rapidly disappearing as a normal social construct. Looking at the current rates, if you line up 1000 unmarried people of average marrying age (mid ’30s), about 500 will ever marry. Of the 500 who do, about 160 (one third) will divorce. With co-habitation separation rates at something like 90% within 5 years, the whole ‘pairing up’ thing (however you want to describe it) seems to be increasingly unnecessary.

    In north American and western european countries, if you include only those born in the country (pretty much irrespective of race), the number of marriages would be more like 450.

    It varies with income, so everyone has spent 25 years actively creating a huge underclass of young men. As an old man, the only social construct that I actually fear, is a large number of responsibility-less young men – history tells us that they tend form groups.

  3. Georgie bleedin’ Burgess!


    Holy shit. “pairing up unnecessary”?? Wow, you have it totally wrong. It is in fact more necessary now than ever. Think of anyone, absolutely anyone, that you know who lives alone and tell me if you admire or pity them or their lives?
    Those who live alone end up being selfish, hateful, bitter, lonely, obnoxious miserable people with shorter life spans and less friends. Think of the crazy cat lady in your local. More common than you think.
    They dont do as well financially and suffer more mental health problems. I come from a city where I knew many many people who lived alone, and let me tell you it is not a pretty picture.
    A hangover from the sixties and an insane liberal agenda of denigrating marriage and societal responsibility can only lead to dysfunction of said society. If what you say is true, and I fear it may be, you need to recognize that the trolley crisis is small compared to the human crisis that is on its way soon.
    As for teenage pregnancy, the girl down the road from the broken home, low life people who I have no idea how they swung the mortgage, was knocked up at 16 and again at 18. Scumbag jockey who doesnt work and both have been in trouble with the law since too. Thank goodness there is less of it.
    Happy new year to all.

    • StephenKenny

      Whether you believe it to be “more necessary now than ever” or not, is not reflected by the actions we see, at a national and continental scale, around us.

      In recent decades the marriage rate has fallen from around 95% to around 50%. Weirdly, divorce rates, which generally rose to about a third decades ago, have not fallen as the marriage rate fell. Which implies that the ‘quality’ of marriages are no better today, on average, than they were 40 years ago, in spite of so few, comparatively, people engaging in it (assuming quality equates to longevity).

      The ‘insane liberal agenda’ seems now to be systemic, rather than at the leading edge of a social/political movement, and is therefore clearly not worthy of widespread comment. This means that whatever kind of propaganda programs are launched to persuade people to marry, will always be overcome by the social, political, and legal structures of countries i.e. by the ‘system’.

      To get a decent grasp of the relationship between unmarried people and death rates, it is necessary to look at populations where lots of people have already died. The youngest such populations are the older ‘boomers’ (people in their 70s), and their marriage rates were well over 90% almost everywhere. The few people who didn’t marry, as a group, cannot really be compared to the 50% of modern populations who don’t marry. If you’re old enough, try and remember how unmarried 30-sonethings were viewed in the 70s and 80s, and compare that to today. I doubt that unmarried people, who will be in the considerable majority (never married + divorced and not remarried), will not compare to the relative handful of social ‘rejects’ of decades ago.

      What is for sure, there are no valid figures possible, yet, to support assertions regarding marriage and age of death. What is a further complexity, is that poor people have aways been less likely to marry than wealthier, so such comparisons could just as easily be caused by wealth disparity, rather than marital status.

    • Gearoid O Dubhain

      “selfish, hateful, bitter, lonely, obnoxious ” As one who lives alone,presumably you dont include me in your Happy New Year. As a 58 yr old living on my own I am an active runner, do a bit of volunteer work, a lot of work on behalf of an excluded section of society. You yourself dont seem like a very nice person – but you probably didnt notice !

      • SMOKEY

        Oh Im nice alright, not too assholes though. But that is besides the point, you may be an exception and of course there are some who live alone and get on fine. But the fact is, we are better if we cohabitate. This cannot be cogently argued against. You need a mate and family. It improves all aspects of your existance. The purposeful destruction of the family by the degenerates of the world will never yield anything but misery and unhappiness. If you are happy to be alone with no one to cook for or comfort you fine, none of my business. However most people need the comfort of a mate. Happy New Year Gearoid, Im glad you are a happy person.

        • StephenKenny

          One third of formal marriages end in divorce, over 70% of which contain some degree of legal conflict. The legal system, and it’s employees, ensure that these are often long, drawn out, very expensive, and incredibly stressful.

          The simple stats are that something like 15% (I have 11% in my mind, but the years are overtaking me) of marriages are ‘the Brady Bunch’, and the rest vary from divorce to just a lengthening number of tired regrets. That means that about 5% of the population, on average, get the Brady Bunch. the rest get disappointment.

          As David recently said ‘did you know that divorce is contagious?’. It is, but not, obviously, via some bacteria or virus, but by personal contact with the realisation, by one or both parties, that something better is possible.

          When the various parts of the media go into one of their regular marriage propaganda campaigns, as with their other efforts to be constructive, all they ever achieve is a surge in the number hopeless marriages, guaranteed to keep the divorce court’s employees troughs well stocked.

          The fundamental point is that decades long trends clearly point to the benefits being increasingly insufficient.

          Interestingly, one part of this comes down to a downside to recent social changes – young women’s expectations for their mate are far beyond supply, in terms of social status and income.

          In recent decades, every country has seen a huge increase in taxpayer funded organisations who’s role is to take over aspects of ‘parenting’. My prediction, of what it’s worth, is that these organisations will just rise in importance and penetration, with biological parents being increasingly viewed, and treated, as wards of the state.

          • SMOKEY

            Any Brady Bunch family is suspect to me, and usually a front and a ruse. I never referred to a Brady Bunch scenario, I said marriage and a mate for life.
            It takes work, sacrifice, and of course dissapointment. Name something worth doing or being a part of that doesnt.
            As for the defeatist attitude and becoming wards of the state, yes those who allow it will, just like those who will bow to Isis will live under sharia. Not me or my kind. I will fight, in a relentless way, to the death before me or my family become wards of the state. This is the liberal’s utopia. Cradle to the grave dependence. Sickens me.
            Grow a pair people, and man up to the struggles of life, its worth the freedom that comes with it.

          • StephenKenny

            It is impossible to fight for two reasons: firstly because there is no one to fight – it’s a bureaucracy, so is like trying to fight smoke; and secondly, every individual item has quite laudable goals.

            What we have seen, and are seeing, is the politicisation, and therefore regulation, of human relations.

            We are doing to society what central planning does to an economy.

  5. goldbug



  6. Happy New Year David

    Many thanks for all your articles during the year and I hope you will continue to do many more and you deserve everything you have achieved.

    Also thank you for putting up with me and my offside opinions .


    John ALLEN

  7. michaelcoughlan


    Wouldn’t it be great from Sud’s perspective if we could get Irish women to stop having babies at all? Imagine all the extra money which would be available for transfer to international banks if we xcould

    • michaelcoughlan

      …..we could shut all the maternity hospitals. You forgot to mentione the biggest impediment to having a family which is the 20% deposit requirement for the next house as your family grows.

      Imagine if all our women could simply be 20 year old lativian and polish girls who when becoming pregnant would be sent back to Poland etc to have their families there?

      Imagine if the new ideal Irish family unit could be two gay men on min wage fostering kids from overseas.

      If I could make this happen I would apply for a Job with gsucks and sure I would be a shoe in. I would hire a 20 year old Latvian beauty queen as my “assistant” and when she would become preganant send her home with a note for her sister telling her I was looking to hire another “assistant”

  8. michaelcoughlan


    This article offers excellent insight into the voting patterns of the reproductive systems of Irish based women.

    Considering that the three worsts years for emigration out of Ireland are this one and the last 2 i am just wondering are there any stats available for what all these Irish girls are deciding to do with their respective reproductive systems in the countries they emmigrate to?

  9. CitizenWhy

    Wasn’t Mary the mother of Jesus married at 14 or so? why aren’t the priests pushing such early marriage? Surely the best way to prevent the sin of pre-marital sex is to have people marry at the time of sexual maturity, as in the time of Jesus. Modern society has gone seriously wrong by separatin sexual maturity and marriage. This bad habit puts young people in serious moral jeopardy, does it not? Look at what happens as a result: women get ambitious and put their superior intelligence to work instead of staying home and having babies. The Church needs to get on this issue.

  10. Very good article, just got to reading it now. Best one for months.

  11. McCawber

    A very good article.
    1. The increase in single mother births coincided in Ireland with the referenda on abortion. Rather than pass legislation on abortion, governments instead brought on the “Single Mother’s/Parents’s” allowance.
    ie Don’t have an abortion, have the baby and the state (that’s you taxpayer) will pick up the tab for your little frolic in the hay.
    This allowance was over and above the usual allowances, it was an extra and clouded in mis-information. Single widowed Mother’s for example were not treated equally.
    I could go on but enough said. It was an expensive approach in both financial but more importantly social terms too. Null points for the governments involved.
    The scandals in the 60′s had more to do with the sure knowledge that grandma and grandda (already badly stretched financially) knew they were going to be stuck with the bill rather than the state. It had very little to do with morality.
    After all a baby born out of wedlock in Ireland pre sixties wasn’t exactly unusual, just handled differently (horrifically if you prefer).
    2. Equality is an impossible dream. There will always be losers and winnere. When a bias is introduced there is always an overshoot.
    3. Statistical propaganda.
    Girls are achieving better results than boys. Make boys feel inferior. Why exactly and it’s working – Male suicide on the rise and nobody seems to know why. Try a bit of nurture you fuckers.
    Fact the male and female brains are wired differently.
    Get over it, take it as a positive and go from there.
    End the war of the sexes bull. There are only losers in war.
    In the first instance I think this has been the case for a long time now.
    In the second instance the results the individual gets are the only ones that matter as far as the individual is concerned.
    In the third instance boys mature later than females however the educational system is biased in favour of females.
    Double points for maths was abolished because it “discriminated” against girls. It has been re-introduced because guess what we actually need students with good mathematical skills.
    To expand on the bias. Girls are better equipped for language skills than boys. The move to teaching languages in schools (which is a good thing btw) thus works in girls favour.
    Added to this is the state’s misguided policy of allotting a 10% premium to exams taken in Irish which is more advantages to girls than boys.
    Someone mentioned gangs earlier on. How right you are.
    In the past, wars mopped up this desire for violence.
    Is that really why ISIL, to date, has had so much success in recruiting young men. And is that why….. I’ll leave the conspiracy theories to the next time ye are in the pub.

  12. McCawber

    People like David and his forum, allow people, who otherwise would be fomenting rebellion, to vent their angst.
    I’m on to you David – Keep up the good work.
    Happy New Year to All – Keep up the good work too.

    • Shane F

      well said. ditto.

      • Shane F

        Actually last post was a test because I cant seem to post a link to The Big Short.

        Anyway, You can find link here about 8 posts down.

        enjoy (or get infuriated)

        • michaelcoughlan

          When i read links like this and how excellent they are I wonder why I spend so much time on this blog and question my decision to place faith in our host.

          • None so blind as those who refuse to see,Michael

          • StephenKenny

            You do our host a disservice. He is in a very difficult position, just as he was 10+ years ago when trying to make people see that accumulating real estate debt is not a sustainable economic model.
            If he goes too far, he would just get dismissed as a ‘conspiracy theorist’, and would stop having any effect at all. At the same time, these articles are published in newspaper, and newspapers have editorial policies.
            A few years ago I remember the British daily telegraph journalist Ambrose Pritchard, in response to this sort of question, saying that journalists are employees, and their published comments should not be taken as reflections of their own views. It was, to me, a fairly startling comment, although one of those ‘obvious with hindsight’ moments.
            The majority of people are not, and never have been, interested in these things. I’ve often wondered what the average American thought when, in 1938, Time magazine made Chancellor Hitler their ‘man of the year’.

          • michaelcoughlan

            Thanks Stephen for pointing out something I missed. If you were offended David I apologize and commit to being more circumspect in future.



          • StephenKenny

            I’m not defending our host – he’s clearly perfectly capable of doing that if he feels the need – and anyway, when he’s clearly wrong we’ve no reason not to point it out.
            No, I was merely giving my view as to why I doubt we’ll ever see much more than a couple of logical steps beyond of the mainstream.
            Now, an evening at the famed McWilliams kitchen table – that of ‘short term bank guarantee’ fame – would probably be a different matter.

          • Stephen
            At that rate you have described why we should expect nothing of substance. Just red herrings to distract from the major problems

          • StephenKenny

            As I’m sure you know, when presenting or pitching, the most you can expect anyone to leave with, is one idea. Just one. And, unless the audience is an audience of experts, it’s got to be one simple one. e.g. a 25 minute pitch, loads of slides, with a message of “We secure your data not your network” (Weirdly, CIOs aren’t experts, at least not in tech stuff).
            It’s why the articles always start with a popular story, and then leads onto the message.

            It’s also hard to get people to listen to something that is bad news, when there’re lots of seemingly convincing ‘good news’ versions.

            Look back over 10 years, and our host is one of the few people who really has managed to make an impact in getting people to understand the broad message that most of the contrarians have failed to get across.

        • Mike Lucey

          Saw ‘The Big Short’ a few nights ago. I was both entertained and infuriated.

          I think this movie might well help to get the true story across to the masses, specially with Brad Pitt in it.

          It does a great job explaining to the ordinary man on the street the Wall Street casino terms used.


    20% of all boys on Ritalin to quiet them down. Boys can no longer be boys but have to act as girls. Denigration causes under achievement and so it may be said that the noted performance of girls academically could be more the result of under achievement by the boys.

    The unsettling affects of the drugs may result in violent outbursts of rage leading to the mass shootings of teachers and students we have witnessed in the recent past.

    Society is in decay and breaking up.

    Take care of yourself and your family, and if all did, the world will take care of itself.

  14. Tull McAdoo

    Interesting analogy re- nativity scene.

    I hear NAMA has taken ownership of the stables and that the three wise men Fitzpatrick, Goggin and Sheedy have ridden off into the sunset on the camels and their bags full of gold

    ………with the Irish citizens getting the HUMP……

    p.s. not sure if that was one hump or two haha…..Happy new year all from Mr sarcasm here in Perth WA.

  15. redriversix

    Banks are no longer viewed as a service..Banks have steered themselves over many years into the position of infallibility , a position of great power where governments and heads of State genuflect to their perceived wisdom and control.

    Where the Wisdom is that Banking is needed for citizens the same as air, water,& food.

    It is a illusion , but they have been very successful in convincing the masses they cannot be done without.

    Many Banks have faced inquiries , tribunals , and fines across the World but..this is nothing to worry about. Banks must be seen to be punished to keep the small man happy. fines can be written off against profits or losses. A Bank that closes or goes bust can be resurrected somewhere else in a new form.

    Fines are a cost of doing business and are factored in accordingly.

    The senior officers operating Banks can operate anywhere as these are the new form of Mercenaries.they have power and privilege which makes them a protected class who hold sway over Politicians..Politicians who, perhaps through naivety are complicit in their ignorance ?….. allow themselves to be controlled.

    If a Politician thinks he or she is independent and cannot be bought..this is just an is not reality.

    Countries today are like victims of domestic violence , beaten , abused , cajoled , bullied , laughed at in public , put down , ridiculed…..until they no longer have the will to fight…and I am referring to the Countries that are not being bombed on a daily basis.

    Europe has lost a War…a financial war..a blitzkrieg of debt and fake money that knew and knows no bounds..where Countries handed over their keys & citizens like chattel to baying Landlords…a landlord who never fired a shot..but one who knew the power of wealth and the power of fear..A Landlord whose primary weapon is a private central Bank .

    In a future cashless society..our reputation will be our currency…you see reputations being built upon through eBay , amazon etc etc..our individual dealings on the e-commerce sites will be developed into a currency of trust.

    Citizens across the World who’s reputation was tarnished during this financial war will be the first to be cast aside..they who shall be “unacceptable”

    I don’t know what the solution is…therefore perhaps we should take care of ourselves, our families and those who seek help…once we are strong in ourselves we can help others…but … beware of FEAR..for fear is a powerful fiction which can manipulate ones reality and turn us against each other……. treat every euro as a prisoner………

    and wait in the long grass.

    Tomorrow is Monday the 4th of January 2016….is it the start of a new life for you and yours..?

    take care

    God bless

    stick with the winners


    • CitizenWhy

      Governments use central banks to control the supply of new money that they create. That is, the government authorizes the production of new money, the central bank produces it, gives it to banks, charges the banks a interest rate that can be anywhere from 0% to 3-5%, and they in turn, in theory, use the money to lend, at a higher interest rate, to other lesser banks (serving savers, home buyers, car buyers, small businesses, non-profits, locals). Hence the economy gets oiled and either grows (low interest rate from central bank) or slows down (high interest rate from central bank). But in reality the big banks use much of the money they are “lent” (hat is,m often given) for trading speculation, especially by creating exotic (not old-fashioned) derivatives and for bonuses to themselves. Hence the lending/growth cycle slows down. Big businesses borrowing the cheaply acquired money can also use it to export jobs, relocate profits out of country and safe form taxes, automation, and lobbying. Theses moves all eliminate jobs. In addition, the central bank can stealthily give money to teh big banks this way: They “lend” the money at lkittle or no interest to teh big banks, but in the name of prudence teyy require the big banks to keep a percentage of that money on deposit at the central bank while paying interest (normally 3%) on the deposited money which the bank got at no interest from the central bank.

      In addition, the City and Wall Street have imposed the rule of “maximizing share holder value” (that is profits and a big gap between employee productivity and wages) on the banlks and on all share-holder owned bsuinesess. Many local and lesser bansk used to be mutually owned, where the concern with maximizing profits was not so strong, but they have gone public, that is, converted to share holder ownership rather than ownership (in theory) by the depositors.

      The old central bank model no longer functions and the privilehged like the new mdoel.

      The old model: Governments tell cnetral bank, pump up the econom=y and jobs by producing more money and getting it out to the banks. the banks then did use it for lending to =businesses to create growth, jobs and higher wages.

      New model: Use the central nak for maximizing profits (buying at little or no cost, earning high interest on the protion left on deposit, use the money in ways that produces more profits than lending (That is, trading, especially with bank-created derivatives) and for bonuses. This model pumps up the value of stocks, which in reality increases the value of retirement portfolios. Except that teh portfolios come to contain many risky derivatives rated as safe and the equivalent of cash. Thus the scenario is set for a collapse. BUT the bankers will profit from the collapse, getting bailed out and increasing their own salaries and bonuses with the money from the central bank.

      In the US Bernie Sanders wants to remove the big bankers from the Board of the Central bank. New board members could decide to distribute new central bank money in a very different way. For instance, in Germany under the Marshall Plan the US gave money directly to businesses big and small to reactivate the economy, food distribution,and wages and thus make civic life possible again.

  16. coldblow

    The Snapper is the only book of Doyle’s I have read (a few years ago, in German translation) and I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t very good. It relies too much on humour. I’m the last man to condemn a book for having houmour (I’m reading Don Quixote at the moment and it is very amusing) but Doyle uses it to sugar his sentimental and politically correct views. The villain is Burgess, a mature neighbour and a married man. I can’t remember now exactly how he was made to be a creep but this is what he is. Let’s guess. He probably went to mass every Sunday. Something crude like that.

    I used to live ‘in the shadow of St Teresa’s’ [Gardens] as I used to describe it. I couldn’t park outside my front door, which opened straight onto the pavement, along which assorted specimens of low life prowled to and from St Theresa’s, by day and particularly by night. Locals tried to block the gap used by the Teresians but workmen were ‘persuaded’ to down tools when work to brick it up began. I used to leave it outside a house up a neighbouring dead end which was no short cut anywhere. When we eventually managed to sell up (for me about eight years after buying it) I gave the surprised owner two bottles of whiskey. (We moved to normal suburbia and it took a while to give up the habit of looking up and down the street before loading the car up and going off on holiday.)

    Near neighbours included the brother and sister of the General and Rose Dugdale (of the milk churn bombs). There was a thriving and very open drug trade until it was driven out (or at least out of view) by vigilantes massing outside known dealers’ houses (‘I dohn’t sell drugs!’ and we witnessed a weird and melodramatic kangaroo court in St Teresa’s (‘I dohn’t do drugs!’). One good thing was that us neighbours stuck together: you had to find out what was going on. I still wonder what became of some of them.

    RTE showed a Roddy Doyle series in this time and it was the last thing I wanted to see on the telly, just like some years before when I was a young teacher in London I used to come home to Grange Hill or Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. I had started to wonder if I would ever get out of this dump.

    The very idea of trying to start a family in this environment was a joke. You couldn’t inflict this on a child.

    Elsewhere surely women were putting off having families because they couldn’t afford them, or because they couldn’t find a respectable and responsible father, or because they didn’t know what they were supposed to want. While David is right that in poor societies you have biologically determined large families (as Crotty termed it) as the future is heavily discounted, the fact that they are having children later in life (again, I think) nowadays is not proof of freedom or education. Smokey gets it right up the thread.

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