Thursday 22 March 2018

'They called me Gay-dan O'Queer-don' - TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin reveals bullying hell in school

Junior ministers opens up about being bullied in school

Labour Minister of State Aodhan O Riordain
Labour Minister of State Aodhan O Riordain

A junior minister has revealed how he was bullied for years at school and jeered with homophobic taunts.

The Labour Party’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin opened up as to how he ‘absolutely dreaded’ his newspaper round as he would be followed door to door by his bullies.

Mr Ó Ríordáin believes he was targeted in primary school and the start of secondary school because he was taller than others in his class, who jeered him over his name.

“The fact that my name is Aodhán Ó Ríordáin – I used to be called 'Gay-dan O'Queer-don',” he told Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTE 1.

“This sort of stuff would be constantly said at you and taunted at you.

“I used to have a paper round delivering the Northside People and I used to absolutely dread it.

“Whenever I went around with my paper bag there would be a number of people who would follow me door to door. I couldn’t wait for it to be finished.

“I used to put ear phones on my ears to try and drown out the taunts that you’d get and inevitably the batteries would run out.

“I’d pretend I couldn’t hear them,” he added.

The former teacher said he believed a lot of others went through the same difficulties.

Family and friends told the Dublin TD to ignore it or stand up for himself, which got him in to trouble as he was often taller than is tormentors.

The married politician also after standing up to a bully on the football field over a water bottle he was followed the whole way home by a whole football team.

“There was pushing and shoving and kicking and all the rest of it,” added the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Arts and the Gaeltacht.

But he said that worse than the mental or physical torment was the affect on his self image, self confidence, self esteem.

“Even going to mass with your family and having to walk up to get the communion becomes traumatic – you become very self conscious of yourself and think everybody is watching you."

He advises teens to speak to their parents and off-load the burden so they'll feel physically lighter.

The best best advice he ever got was from his mother, who said these things have a way of working themselves out "and she was right", he added.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said that throughout his career as a teacher in an inner city school he tried to create an atmosphere where children felt safe,  proud of where they came from, and where these issues could be dealt with. A ‘no blame’ approach is often needed with parents, he said.

But he added that a greater uissue for students today is online bullying.

“I could go home from school and go to my room, go back to my house and back to my parents and shield myself from some of the comments,” the TD said.

“But when they follow you on Twitter, follow you on Facebook and follow through whatever means is easier that’s a very difficult situation for parents to get their heads around and teachers to get their heads around.”

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