Saturday 10 December 2016

'Brave face' Coughlan owed an apology for ambush

The loutish behaviour of delegates at last week's TUI conference revealed them to be out-of-touch bullies, writes Anne Harris

ANNE HARRIS

Published 11/04/2010 | 05:00

WELL, she was asking for it, wasn't she? Blonde with a foul mouth and hot red lipstick.

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So she had just arrived and didn't really know her way around. But her reputation went before her and that's enough, isn't it? And there's the gang she hung around with. It's all their fault really.

"We are the teachers and we're very upset. We're not getting the love that every child should get."

She was all on her own and there were 450 of them. But they were totally fearless. I'll tell you that. First they gave her the silent treatment. Nothing like the silent treatment for scaring the wits out of a newcomer. Their teachers must have told them that there were many forms of bullying -- it doesn't always take the form of pushing and shoving.

The silent treatment is often the best way of terrorising a person.

"We're no delinquents. We're just misunderstood. Deep down inside us, there is good."

So they totally ignored her. She did her best, tried to win them around, but they were stony faced. Then the biggest and strongest of them let her have it. What he didn't call her isn't worth calling. She went pale. She knew she hadn't a prayer. In a funny way, you'd have to admire the way she kept her cool, never acknowledged that she had been ambushed and humiliated.

"Our leaders are not commies, but you drank champagne as we drank tea, the classroom's full of anger, the kids don't know ABC."

Well, she didn't get away with that "brave face" stuff as she left. It got physical -- just a bit of harmless jostling, you know.

Anyway it's her own fault for hanging around with that gang -- it was all their fault for letting her out there on her own. Nobody can be responsible for what they do when they hang out in huge numbers and come across a woman on her own, can they? Otherwise you might forget who the real 450 victims are.

"We are the teachers. We are sick, sick, sick. We are psychologically sick."

Apologies to Officer Krupke, but at least in West Side Story the thugs masquerading as victims were the kids. Mary Coughlan may not be the best minister ever and we have all criticised her, but in ordinary humanity and for the dignity of her person, not her office, she deserved courtesy.

If schoolchildren are led by the example of their teachers, the message from this display of loutishness does not bear thinking about.

The lack of respect for a woman on her own was so casual it was frightening.

If the teachers could park their anger and go back to what they do best, they might see how this terrible scene came about.

Teaching, done properly, is a heartbreaking job. So they want more money. Understandably.

But where is it to come from? The taxpayer is bled dry. Anybody who tells them otherwise is guilty of denial bordering on the pathological because, as the poet said, they "fed the heart on fantasy... the heart grew brutal on the fare".

Teachers, above all, must not have hearts grown brutal. They should apologise to Mary Coughlan.

See Colum Kenny, Page 18 & Colm O'Rourke Back Page

Sunday Independent

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