SCOUT LEADER KIERNAN Gildea dropped out of the race for the position of Chief Scout after receiving a nasty e-mail that made insinuations about his private life and suitability for the role.
The 58-year-old told The Irish Scouter website about the experience, saying it caused ‘a physical and mental breakdown’.
“Insinuations and threats were made in the email, which put into question my suitability to be an adult in Scouting.”
Gildea said he had always kept his sexuality ‘low key’ and the email triggered repressed guilt he had felt about being gay and threw him into a depression.
The message triggered a flood of bad feelings about myself and convinced me that I was letting everyone in my life down in the most hurtful way and that the principles that I strive to live by were all a lie.
“I had no time to think straight – I had collapsed – and it was only a few hours to voting.”
Gildea also discussed how he had been depressed after the death of a colleague in Kenya in 1997 and the letter brought back some of those feelings:
All the years of repressed fear around being gay alongside a deep sense of guilt and responsibility for what happened in Kenya flooded over me.
However, he was quick to point out that he does not believe homophobia is widespread in Scouting in Ireland.
“I believe the overwhelming majority of people in Scouting are kind, decent people who believe in fairness, inclusivity and openness…there are clearly a small minority – a tiny minority – who do not.”