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Sunday Business Post 2nd May 2010

This weekend in Sunday Business Post, Jennifer O’Connell wrote an amazing piece on bullying in which she took a greater case of the subject and followed up with 8 real life examples. Most of the people chose to remain anonymous. I chose not to.

My reason? I don’t mind if people know I was bullied. It was around 20 years ago. It wasn’t my families fault. I’m not especially proud of it. It’s not pleasant to reminisce. That said, maybe there is a case for privacy on my part.. but there seems to me more a case for highlighting what happened and maybe, maybe it may help somehow because someone can identify with. I know I hated it at that time. It is also now past.

I had written about gardening from a young age back in 2008. The truth as I explained to Jennifer was [in the school yard] that gardening nee flowers made me gay. That meant I had aids and less one forgets gardening was not trendy in the years 1980 to 1990. Not one bit.

In hindsight, in my opinion, there’s no rule book the state can write to fix this. I still believe that getting my parents involved would have made life worse. This happened in a school yard. AND – As a by the way, I do have amazing parents. Truly great parents. I hope I can be as good a parent to my child as they were to me.

To today and to highlighting the issue. It should be of no harm at all. It can only be good. And if one can identify with my story and maybe get out that little bit brighter – then happy days. I may have just achieved something other than seed germination.

Talking to Jennifer was not easy. But, for the texts and emails from people I don’t know simply to say thank you for highlighting the situation… that’s why it’s live here.

Read Jennifers article in full.

This is the piece that Jennifer wrote regarding me.

I always had a passion for plants. Started growing them under the bed when I was five. In Clondalkin in the 1980s, that made me odd. The fact that I was spending an hour and a half doing geranium cuttings in Brother Coleman’s glasshouse didn’t work in my favour when I went out on the hurling or rugby pitch afterwards. For a long time, life was hell on earth.

If you were into flowers, you must be gay. I remember going in with black eyes and bloodshot eyes – I don’t remember anyone ever saying, ‘Are you okay?’ They’d wait for me after school and you can only run so fast, or so long.

I remember in accountancy class one day, I asked a question – I was told by the teacher That maybe if you spent a little less time with the pansies, you’d know the answer. Once the teacher got involved, that was it. You were an easy target, then. It became all about survival.

I didn’t mind the beatings. The big thing was the isolation – you’d be standing in the school yard and no one would come near you.
Eventually, I dropped gardening for a year or two, and started playing guitar, grew my hair long and built up a really good vinyl collection. I survived by learning to fit in. I used humour to diffuse the situation.

Gardening was the only thing I could get lost in – it was the one thing I could do where the bullying and hassle and bits of stress would disappear. So it pulled me back in eventually.

I wish it was different, but at least I know what it’s like to be hurt or insulted, I know what it’s like to have your day or your week or your month ruined by an insult. I think it’s stood me in good stead – I run my own garden landscaping business now, and I’m respectful of everyone I come into contact with. I’m a lot stronger as a result of it.

My baby daughter, Ella, was born last week. She is my first child, and I have thought about it – what will happen if she comes home one day and says, ‘I was bullied’.

What would I do? I have thought about it and I still don’t know.

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