IRELAND has the highest homicide rate of young men in western Europe and the second highest rate of knife killings, according to the World Health Organisation.
A massive study by the UN body said Ireland had admitted it had a “big problem” with knife violence — one of just six European countries to do so.
A homicide victims’ support group described the report as “very shocking” and said the level of violence among young people was a “huge problem” that needed a national response.
The report analysed homicide figures among 10 to 29-year-olds between 2004 and 2006 (the latest three years available) in 45 European countries, including Russia and its former states, Eastern European and Baltic states. It found:
* Ireland was ranked 9th out of 35 selected countries for all homicides (3.40 per 100,000), and homicides involving sharp instruments (1.12) among young males.
* In western Europe, Ireland was ranked 1st for all homicides and 2nd for knife homicides (behind Iceland) among young men.
* But Ireland was ranked 29th for all homicides and 26th for knife homicides involving young females.
The report said research in 10 European countries found that school-going delinquent children aged 12 to 16 in Ireland reported the highest rate of weapon-carrying (13.9%).
The WHO study said Ireland was ranked 8th out of 25 selected countries for bullying among 12 to 16-year-olds, with 17% of that age group reporting being bullied within the last year.
“The report is clearly very shocking, but at the same time not too surprising as we have been seeing this develop over a number of years,” said Joan Deane of Advocates for Victims of Homicide (AdVIC).
“We have so much violence in our young people. It is a huge problem.”
She said AdVIC had been calling for a national debate on the issue.
“Why have our young people become so violent? They seem to have lost their problem-solving skills and the first resort seems to be extreme violence.
“We need a national conversation and it needs to be multi-faceted, looking at education, health, welfare and justice.”
She said there was a particular problem with knives, as they were easy to access and easy to conceal.
“We can’t stop access to kitchen knives. If someone is intent on violence, the weapon could be anything. It’s the violence that’s the real problem.”
Ms Deane said the state’s response had been poor and that all the agencies needed to come together.
“The state is not focused enough. Everyone is acknowledging this is a problem, but when you read a report like this you realise how much of a problem.”
Knife murders in Ireland have fluctuated since 2003, rising sharply from eight in that year, to 21 in 2005, to a peak of 37 in 2007. It fell to 15 in 2008, before rising to 19 in 2009.
As of July this year there were 11, with nine of the victims aged under 29.
A nationwide Garda campaign targeting knife carrying among young people — called How Big Do You Feel? — was launched in February 2009.
Recent legislation increased the maximum penalty for carrying a knife, from one to five years.
At the launch of the report in London yesterday, WHO regional director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab said violence claimed the lives of 40 young people every day in Europe — over 15,000 each year.
He said four out of 10 of the deaths were perpetrated with knives.
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