After news broke out last week of an attack on a teenager in Navan, Irish presenter and fashion designer, Brendan Courtney, penned an empowering letter to the teen, starting it with “Dear hero”.
The letter was published in the Irish Examiner, with the presenter also sharing it in spoken word style in an Instagram video. Brendan Courtney directly addressed the teen who was attacked in Navan last Monday, May 15, and revealed his own personal experience of bullying and abuse.
The fashion designer recalled being attacked in school and being bullied to the point where he decided to stop attending until his parents eventually found out. Courtney explained that now, looking back to this time of his life, he feels “enormous pride” in finding the strength to react like this and not let his bullies “break” him.
The presenter then recounted a second attack that took place on George’s Street in Dublin much later, in 2014, when he had already reinvented himself and life had gotten better. This time, Courtney said, he didn’t feel humiliation or shame, but anger.
“I took that anger and channelled it into the 2015 referendum on marriage equality, and along with all the other people who spoke their truths, we won. Love won,” he said.
Courtney then encouraged the teen to use their anger in the same way. “Be angry for now, you will be afraid for a while, but then take that anger and the fear and channel it for good, channel it for tolerance, tell your story everywhere and often. Because your story is now a huge part of how things change,” he said.
“I have never met you but I want you to know on this battlefield, I love you,” the presenter added. “This will change your life, but it will not define you. It defines them, it’s up to you now how you deal with it.
“I’m so sorry your young life has now become a part of this awful battle — but know you are loved and supported,” Courtney continued. The fashion designer then urged listeners and readers to march at their local Pride this year. “It has never been more important to march with us on Pride, we need you,” he concluded.
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The teen to whom the letter is addressed was reportedly assaulted in a residential neighbourhood in the Navan area on Monday, May 15, by a group of students wearing school uniforms, who also recorded the violence and later posted it on social media. The 14-year-old was treated for “serious facial injuries” at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and allegedly suffered a concussion, broken teeth and extensive bruising.
In their investigation, Gardaí have deemed the assault to be a hate crime and, last Friday, they arrested five minors in connection with the case. In a statement released after the arrests, Gardaí specified that “the five juvenile teenagers were later released without charge and a file will be referred in the first instance for consideration for admission to the Juvenile Diversion Programme in accordance with Part 4 of the Children Act, 2001.”
On Saturday, May 20, a rally against hate was organised in Meath in solidarity with the teenager and with all oppressed groups in Ireland. Demonstrators assembled outside Meath’s county GAA grounds, Páirc Tailteann, before marching all the way to the Solstice Arts Centre, chanting, “No hate, no fear, everybody’s welcome here”.
Commenting on the rally, Co-Chairman of Navan Pride Patrick Lawlor said: “Navan Pride attended the rally in a show of solidarity, after making sure the event was supported by the family. People are horrified and shocked at what has happened. No one should be attacked for being different, for being themselves.
“Navan won’t accept hate crimes of any kind,” Lawlor added. “Unfortunately homophobia hasn’t gone away but in all my years, I’ve never seen that level of ferocity, hate and aggression in that many young people. It was stomach churning. It was dystopian.”
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