THE stories of young people’s experiences of discrimination, harassment or suspicion of gardaí are at the heart of a groundbreaking new exhibition.
Gardaí hoping to improve relations with Dublin’s inner-city youths took part in the arts initiative, even reading out themselves complaints and stories of harassment against members of the force in a short film as part of the project.
Up to 60 stories from people from Rialto, aged 16 to 21, feature in the Policing Dialogues project. They recount their feelings of powerlessness during Garda raids on family homes, strip searches in cells as well as threats by gardaí.
Leading artist in the project Fiona Whelan explained: “The stories explore a common experience of being judged or a sense of indignity or disrespect from certain gardaí. The young men and women talk about how they are approached or assumed guilty before even being asked to speak or questioned.”
The exhibition of stories includes a stark film in which gardaí themselves read out some of the young people’s testimonies about the actions of some of their colleagues.
Some 13 members of the force who were fresh out of the Garda training college took part in the readings.
Dublin South Central District chief superintendent Michael O’Sullivan said feedback from inner city families involved in the arts project would help garda and community relations in the long run.
“One of the [garda] members who came from a working-class area himself could relate to the stories because he was stopped and searched himself before he was a garda.
“There are lessons to be learned from this in how we deal with young people from the south inner city.”
Michael Byrne, 23, from Crumlin, who contributed to the project, explained how his anger with gardaí had changed to an empathy during his work with the exhibition.
“I felt hurt going into the exhibition, I thought gardaí wouldn’t take the stories seriously. But as they were reading out our stories, I felt some of the gardaí were nervous and then they described after how they felt. For me, that changed in a way how I felt about gardaí.
“I hope the exhibition gives young people a voice about their experiences with gardaí.”
Other areas of power or the abuse of it discussed by youths in their stories include in education, families as well as in families.
- See www.thelab.ie for more information.
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