Liverpool judge’s decision recognises that ‘home’ still exists for the homeless

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Clare Kinsella, Edge Hill University

Stephen Gibney, a Liverpool man, has been sentenced to eight weeks imprisonment for urinating on homeless man Richard Stanley, while he slept rough in Liverpool City Centre. District Judge Wendy Lloyd handed down the sentence not just for degrading Stanley as a person, but also for attacking his home. Justice Lloyd condemned the offence, calling it:

A deliberate act of degradation of a homeless person … it was his home, his little pitch where he was trying to establish himself as a human being … apparently, to you and your companion this was just a joke.

By recognising that a homeless person can have something akin to a home, the judge acknowledges that home is an abstract, nebulous and subjective idea – that the meaning of home can differ between people and contexts. People who are homeless in the legal sense often feel as if they have a home, whether that be a city, a particular neighbourhood, a family or a friendship group. Some even understand their home in connection to the land, or as a content state of mind.

By making these comments, Justice Lloyd affords Stanley the dignity of having a recognisable defensible space, marked out by his possessions, which to all intents and purposes is his home – and should be respected as such.

A changing city

Since the early 1980s, Liverpool has been undergoing economic, physical, social, political, reputational and cultural regeneration. These processes have picked up pace since 2003, when Liverpool was announced as the 2008 European Capital of Culture. This accolade proved to be the catalyst for a range of initiatives to “clean up” the city, ready for its big year.

Like many other cities across the globe – New York, during its 1990s drive to shake off its title of “murder capital of the world”; Sydney, in the run up to the 2000 Olympics; and Glasgow in its preparations for its own European Capital of Culture year in 1990 – Liverpool’s authorities turned their attention to the city centre.

Mathew Street, Liverpool: drinkers with houses, welcome. littlenySTOCK/Shutterstock

In Liverpool, rough sleepers, street drinkers and any other groups identified as “uncivilised” impediments to regeneration were singled out and subjected to a range of punitive measures, including the criminalisation of street drinking and begging, designed to clear them from view. It was all part of the bid to present the city as prosperous and cultured, and to free it of its previous reputation for poverty, crime and post-industrial decline.

Scorned, not supported

Views of rough sleepers as anathema to prosperity and progress stem from the false belief that they must, by definition, perform all bodily functions – from urination and defecation to sleep and sex – in public spaces rather than a private home. Because of this, rough sleepers are seen as uncivilised – and consequently unwelcome – by authorities determined to attract business and tourism.

This has led, in some quarters, to the vilification of “visible” homeless people – particularly where their homelessness is seen as a “lifestyle choice” – on the basis that they wilfully stand in the way of social, economic and cultural progress. They are a social element to be scorned, rather than supported: a view which may have led Gibney – a man with a home in the conventional sense – to perform the kind of bodily function on Stanley, which is more often unfairly attributed to rough sleepers.

Once it is recognised that the idea of “home” applies beyond a formal abode of bricks and mortar, many more violations come to light: from the clearance of informal settlements, to the enforced displacement of whole populations.

For example, consider the forced removal of the population of Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean, to nearby Mauritius because the US military needed a refuelling base. The phenomenon is so widespread that it has even been given a name – domicide. The “-cide” suffix connotes murder: the deliberate, calculated and wilful killing of a home.

The ConversationBy thinking of the destruction of “home” as an act of killing, we recognise the its true value – home means so much more than simply a place or a building. And, although the meaning of home varies from person to person, those who lose their home – for whatever reason – almost universally experience shock, grief and bereavement. Justice Lloyd’s comments on handing down Gibney’s sentence reflect two vital but overlooked truths: that home has meaning beyond bricks and mortar and that being homeless does not necessarily mean having no home at all.

Clare Kinsella, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Edge Hill University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Here’s why St Patrick’s day and ‘the craic’ are two of Ireland’s greatest myths

The Conversation

Paddy Hoey, Edge Hill University and David Shaw, University of Liverpool

There are two world famous symbols of Irish culture: St Patrick’s day, and the Irish pub – both synonymous with drinking and “good craic”. But history tells us that these icons of Irish identity were first conceived far away from Ireland. Since then, these phenomena have become a tangle of mythology, religion and politics; inseparable from – but hardly authentic to – the modern nation.

In fact, the first celebration of St Patrick – patron saint of Ireland – was organised in Boston by members of the Charitable Irish Society, in 1737. The original society rules made the organisation exclusively Protestant, and other early celebrations were also organised by Protestant officers in the British Army.

St Patrick’s day really increased in profile during the era of mass emigrations which began in the 19th century. It gradually became a celebration of what it means to be Irish in North America.

Chicago goes all out for St Paddy’s day … by dyeing its river green.
Asten/Flickr, CC BY-NC

As the number of Catholics moving to North America increased after the Great Hunger, St Patrick’s day celebrations also became a demonstration of the increasing social and political power of Catholic Irish Americans. The celebrations were as varied as the emigrants themselves: middle-class dinner societies existed cheek-by-jowl with drunken, riotous street celebrations.

Wearing the green

At the start of the 20th century, the “wearing of the green” had spread as far as New Zealand, and the celebration was considered necessary to maintain good spirits among the colonists. By contrast, St Patrick’s day in Ireland was a relatively sober affair until quite recently. It was not until 1903 that it became an official holiday, and for decades it was a day of holy observance and reflection. Dublin didn’t have its first parade until 1931, and pubs were closed on St Patrick’s day until the 1970s.

But St Patrick’s day hasn’t always brought people together. In fact, it has long concealed many of the divisions within the Irish diaspora. People who did not conform to religiously conservative Irish American society were ignored or excluded. For instance, the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organisation was barred from marching in official St Patrick’s day parades in New York until this year.

What’s more, in Britain, sporadic outbreaks of violence during “the Troubles” – a bloody, 30-year ethno-nationalist conflict – made St Patrick’s day a topic of contention from the late 1960s onward. It wasn’t until the 1980s that St Patrick’s day became visible in the UK once more, and in 2002 London launched its annual festival in Trafalgar Square.

This process has marked the re-acceptance of Irish culture both in Britain and abroad – partly due to the success of Riverdance, boy bands such as Boyzone and Jedward and the twin absurdities of Father Ted and Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Scholars have noted that, instead of holding up a mirror to the Irish, St Patrick’s day depicts them as they wished to be seen – congenial, convivial, public spirited and united. Multi-national corporations picked up on this, and saw an opportunity to capitalise on “Brand Ireland”. Their weapon of choice? The Irish-themed pub.

Commercial craic

Rather than recreating the traditional Dublin alehouses so vividly captured by James Joyce in Ulysses, Irish-themed pubs were conceived to “commodify the craic”, and packed with affectations borrowed from Irish America’s fevered perception of the “old country”. The upside down bikes, signposts to obscure towns and pictures of gap-toothed alcoholics and red-haired colleens you’ll see in “O’Malley’s” and “Flanagan’s” are about as Irish as Tom Cruise in Far and Away.

In particular, Guinness saw the development of the Irish-themed pub on the global stage as a means of greatly increasing consumption of its products which – after the 1997 merger that created the parent company, Diageo – also included Smirnoff vodka and Johnnie Walker scotch whisky. Not exactly “authentic” Irish fare.

Bells and whistles.
Un ragazzo chiamato Bi/Flickr, CC BY-SA

In the 1990s, the Irish-themed pub became a presence on British high streets and city centres. Pub chains were suffering from falling numbers of drinkers, who were alienated by the cavernous cathedrals to the video juke box, live sport and insipid lager. Guinness and others introduced reproductions of Irish pubs, hoping to bring a distinctive ethnic experience to stagnant high streets.

Today, most Irish pubs have little to do with Irish culture, and compete with traditional bars in more than 53 countries around the world. By seeking to sell the same “authentic” cultural experience all around the world, Irish pubs achieve just the opposite.

Despite this humbuggery, denizens of Irish pubs will still seek out “the craic” on March 17, in celebration of a Welsh man known for chasing snakes out of a country which never had any in the first place. The Irish are famous for their myth-making, and the legends behind St Patrick’s day and the Irish pub are some of the best yet. Sláinte!

Paddy Hoey, Lecturer in Media, Edge Hill University and David Shaw, PhD Candidate, University of Liverpool

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.