#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 7°C Thursday 26 November 2020
Advertisement

‘There was a huge backlash’: Father of teenage victim of ‘racist attack’ thanks Crumlin community for support

Seán was set upon while on lunch from school.

The Munnelly family.
The Munnelly family.

THE FATHER OF a teenage boy who was attacked in an apparent racially motivated incident has thanked a local Dublin community for their support, calling for unity in the face of the attack. 

Seán Munnelly (15) was attacked by three men while on a lunch break from a local secondary school in Crumlin on Monday 21 September at about 12.20pm.

Seán was near the velodrome in Eamonn Ceannt park (also called Sundrive Park) with friends when three men approached them. One of the men was wheeling a pram. 

According to Seán’s father – Terry – the men approached the boys without provocation and said: “Who are you calling rat?”

One of the men then struck Seán who was knocked to the ground. He was kicked repeatedly in the head while on the ground, receiving injuries to his head and face.

While Seán was being attacked, witnesses said that the men shouted racial slurs at him. One of Seán’s friends tried to intervene and was also hit by the men, receiving minor injuries. 

The men then exited the park onto Sundrive Road. Gardaí say the men are aged in their early 20s. One of the men is reported to have been wearing a black jacket while the other two were reported as wearing a dark grey jacket and a blue jacket.

Seán’s friends brought him to a shop near to the entrance of the park and he called his father, Terry.

“Seán didn’t tell me what happened, he just said, ‘Dad can you come quick, can you come quick?’ so you know in your heart of hearts something’s going wrong,” Terry told TheJournal.ie.

Terry is a teacher in Seán’s school. He and another teacher rushed down to find Seán after the incident and when he reached him he was shocked.

“I was kind of ready in my head. But then I was just kind of shocked,” he said.

“Seán was sitting on the wall, his lip was already swollen and his eye was already starting to close. and there was a bit of blood and cuts on his face.”

Seán was taken back to school and gardaí and an ambulance were called. He was taken to Our Lady Children’s Hospital in Crumlin where he received an X-ray. His injuries were found to be soft tissue damage and he was free to leave the hospital later that evening.

Since then, he has been recovering and has returned to school. For Terry, who is well-known in the Crumlin community for the work he does in the area, the whole incident came as a shock.

“It was just surreal because it was my son and I’d rather take the pain rather than him take the pain and you just go into combat mode in your head but you try to come back down,” he said.

Racially motivated

Gardaí confirmed the incident and said they are treating it as a possible racially motivated attack. No arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing.

Seán and his older brother Finn are mixed race. His father Terry is white and originally from Dublin. His mother Sylvie is black and from Togo. The family lives in Bailieboro, Co Cavan, and every weekday morning they commute to Crumlin, where Terry teaches and the boys go to school.

Seán is in third year at the school. Terry describes him as a gifted, intelligent, quiet child. He was involved with the DCU Centre for Talented Youth when he was in primary school and is interested in building computers and gaming with his friends.

“He’s quiet, he’s smart, he’s introverted, he gets bored in school so you have to keep him on his toes. He’s not really a talker so you have to get stuff out of him,” Terry said.

Terry teaches French at the school to third year students as well as teaching Leaving Cert Applied. He also runs the back to education programme for older students who may not have finished school and completed their Leaving Certificate.

He has taught at the school for about 15 years and is very well-known and respected in the community for the work he does with helping people through education who may have missed out for a variety of reasons. 

“My whole school was in shock. That’s why everyone that was on that knows me was in shock because they know my kids are quiet, especially Seán,” said Terry.

“That’s why there was a huge backlash.”

Terry posted on Facebook following the incident and said he received hundreds of messages of support from former students and members of the local community. He said there was a palpable anger that an attack of this sort could happen in the area.

He said the local community has always been hugely supportive of him and his family and that he hoped something positive could come from the attack on Seán.

“With what’s going on at the moment, I want diversity not division in the neighbourhood,” said Terry. “This brings us an opportunity to bring change.”

Second chances

Terry describes himself as an “accidental teacher” and says that he has made a lot of mistakes in his life and has been forgiven for them. He said that he had been given second chances and that the Crumlin and Dolphin’s Barn communities have always had a positive impact on his life.

Originally from Finglas, he spent some time in the French Foreign Legion before returning to Ireland, where he lived in Dolphin’s Barn. Terry said he was sleeping on people’s couches in Dolphin’s Barn when an opportunity arose for him to do a diploma in theology.

From there he was given an opportunity to do some work in Africa, and he said the local community youth clubs in Dolphin’s Barn got together to raise the money for him to go on a trip to Africa.

This set in train a series of events which completely changed Terry’s life. He later met his future wife Sylive, got married and eventually moved back to Ireland, where he got a job teaching in Crumlin. 

Because of all this, Terry feels then that he owes a lot to the local community and that attacks like the one on Seán aren’t representative of the people that live in the area.

“People need a chance to change and a second chance,” he said.

“[The people who did this] need to contact me, come down and apologise. I don’t want convictions, prosecutions, I want forgiveness and solutions.”

Terry said Seán – who didn’t want to speak to the media – feels a similar way.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

“The beautiful thing about Seán is – Seán’s very forgiving – but he wants people to realise it was wrong,” he said.

“For someone to realise that if something happens they’ll say, ‘no, I’m walking away’ that’s all Seán wants. That’s all Seán wants he doesn’t want anyone else to go through that.”

Hate crime 

In a statement, gardaí said they were investigating the attack as being possibly racially motivated.  

They said that they take hate crime very seriously and every hate crime reported to gardaí is professionally investigated and the victims supported. 

In October 2019 the gardaí introduced a working definition of hate crime which defines it as:

“Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to, in whole or in part, be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on actual or perceived age, disability, ‘race’, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender.”

IMG-20201002-WA0004 Injuries suffered by Sean (picture used with family permission). Source: TheJournal.ie

Ireland has been criticised in the past by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for having one of the highest rates of hate crimes against people of African background and transgender people in the EU, but no proper laws against them.

An Anti-Racism Committee was set in June 2019 aimed towards strengthening Ireland’s approach to hate crime and hate speech and the government is currently reviewing the laws around hate speech and hate crime in Ireland.

For Terry, Ireland is at the beginning of “either getting it right with diversity or getting it wrong with division”. But he stressed that the attack on Seán was not reflective on the community in general. 

He said that conversations and communication around issues or race were important in his community and across the country. He hopes that what happened will cause people to examine their behaviour and that there will be some positive outcome.

“I love Crumlin. My son has been attacked in Crumlin. My son is mixed race, he’s had slurs said against him but I love Crumlin,” said Terry.

“Crumlin made me. And this [happened] because of a grain of disgust in someone else’s life, someone uneducated and doing the stupidest of things. 

“You know what? The wave has to flow back, come back like a breaker and hopefully change the background in all of them.”

Gardaí at Sundrive Road Garda Station are appealing for witnesses, or for any person with information on this incident to come forward.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Sundrive Road Garda Station on 01 6666 600, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any garda station.

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

Read next:

COMMENTS (1)