Look, I’ve no idea whether Michaella (McCollum Connelly) and Melissa (Reid) went to Peru voluntarily or were coerced. So says Gail Walker, feature writer at the Belfast Telegraph. Baffling then that she cites historical cases that bear resemblance to Midnight Express, and dismisses the national jurisdiction of Peru as not fit for purpose, ‘struggling to contain a lethal trade (drug dealing) which specialises in generating victims of all kinds.’ Context is everything and positioning these two women as victims of circumstance is misleading when it is not known if they are innocent or guilty.
The narrative of being a victim in Northern Ireland is an easy escape for people only too willing to characterise themselves as such. The riots in Ardoyne have shown this with rioters staging themselves as victims forced into action because of their culture being threatened; as useful a defence as pleading ignorance to ‘food packets’ containing cocaine in your luggage. Criminal records await those who riot and deal drugs. The mistake is in seeing both as entertainment. Those who feel the need to bear witness to either run a fine line in presenting their case as moral to outsiders.
These cases will continue to fall on deaf ears as perpetrators unintentionally reveal evidence contrary to their public claims. Facebook comments, Twitter posts and video recording leave lawyers and researchers the opportunity to construct a character profile at odds with the defence of the individual. This of course comes after news media fill columns with the effects of rioting on society; after their front page spread of two terrified girls standing in front of clear packaged cocaine, as it rests on scales.
Rioting looks fun. A chance to make a name for yourself in the local community. To let adrenaline run through your veins and confront police with bricks and bottles. Especially if the police force are siding with the so called enemy. The attraction of Ibiza and its drugs culture seems equally appealing. Hedonism in heat. Both are stupid. As the stories of rioters and the ‘Peru two’ unravel, their misdemeanours are given less countenance by those in authority, ready to cast verdicts on empty entertainment.
The rioters screaming sectarian abuse, injuring police, innocent bystanders, destroying the image of peace and pushing people toward immigration; are snapped up by lawyers as legal proceedings begin with increasing regularity. The links to a story on social networking sites of a missing Irish girl in Ibiza become updated to pronunciations of incredulity when its discovered she faces drugs charges in Peru.
But an uneasy sense of disappointment will feature on the fingertips and mouths of some columnists, bloggers, parents and the usual clichés will follow, ‘they don’t know any better’ or ‘maybe they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ Let that disappointment disappear. Those thoughts have to be thought but not voiced. Rioting and drug dealing are a form of enjoyment to many, willing to take the risk of getting away with either is making a decision upon which you hope a public judgment won’t ever come your way. When it does, what looked like fun will look stupid.