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Ruairí Quinn: Even conservative groups know homophobic bullying is a problem

In a recent interview with TheJournal.ie, the Minister for Education outlined concerns about homophobic bullying and the bullying of the ‘bright, pretty young person’ in the classroom.

Image: TheJournal.ie

IN THE PAST 12 months a number of high-profile and tragic suicides have highlighted the impact bullying and cyber-bullying can have on Ireland’s young people.

In January, the government put aside half a million euro to follow through on 12 actions set out in its anti-bullying strategy. At the launch of the plan, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn noted his concerns that the department’s guidelines on bullying had not been updated since 1993.

He reiterated those worries in a recent interview with TheJournal.ie.

“Ireland was a very different place, the world was a very different place. Specifically in the area of homophobic bullying,” he said.

“There was no real mention or attitude to it in those guidelines. That reflected a different culture, in terms of attitudes to things like gay marriage and equality, and the right of people not to be discriminated in the work place.”

In tackling the issue, the Minister said there has been “great buy-in” from stakeholders, including from “the more traditional and more conservative groups who do recognise that homophobic bullying is bullying and must be confronted”.

Quinn said the guidelines also needed to be changed to reflect the 24/7 nature of social media and highlight the onset of cyber-bullying. It is something we have to be concious of, he added.

In his remit as Minister for Education, the Labour deputy has become aware of another aspect of bullying that “flies below the radar”.

“…The ‘bright young person’ in the classroom, or the ‘pretty bright young person’…becomes the object of envy and gets bullied outside the classroom,” he explained. “And goes from being a vivacious, open and enthusiastic personality to simply not opening their mouth or not putting up their hand.

“And in many cases, they get quite depressed. That is a form or consequence of bullying that doesn’t get the same kind of profile. It is a real problem.”

(YouTube: Thejournalvideo)

-Camera and editing by Michelle Hennessey

More from TheJournal.ie’s interview with Ruairí Quinn:

‘Nothing on the table’ to provoke teachers’ strike, says Minister

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