21 April, 2015- Minister O’Sullivan launches BeLonG To’s Stand Up! Awareness Week Against Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying

Check Against Delivery

I am very pleased to be launching the Stand Up! Awareness Week for 2015 this evening in the United Arts Club in the heart of Georgian Dublin. I would like to thank David and Carol-Anne for their very kind invitation. 

The annual Stand Up! Awareness Week has become an increasingly important event for supporting LGBT students. It helps raise awareness of LGBT issues in our schools and elsewhere. It encourages everyone to stand together against homophobic and transphobic bullying. 

I am delighted to see so many young people who have taken the time out of their hectic schedules to come here this evening to stand up to bullying. I am also pleased to see that Stand Up! 2015 is being supported by a range of education partners and youth sector organisations.   

Any form of bullying can have a devastating effect on the lives of young people. It can be a particularly acute problem for young LGBT people. Growing away from childhood can present difficulties and be a time of self-searching and nobody should have the added struggle of living in fear of prejudice or discrimination. It is important that we take all necessary steps to protect young people from bullying at this vulnerable point in their lives.

Stand Up! is playing a key role here and that is why I am pleased to confirm this evening that my Department will be providing funding to support the 2015 campaign. This is the third year that my Department has supported Stand Up! It plays such an important role in tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying in our schools. 

I understand that Stand Up! resource packs have been sent to all second level schools and youth projects and that a host of activities will take place in schools during the week. I encourage all second level schools to participate fully in the week. 

Students who participated in the 2014 campaign said that they felt empowered to shape the way their school responded to LGTB issues. They also reported an enhanced understanding of the hurt that can be experienced by LGTB young people when they are bullied.

Evaluation of the 2014 Stand Up! Campaign

I understand that the focus of this year’s campaign is teacher training, so that teachers will be better equipped to tackle and prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying. They will also be more aware of the challenges faced by LGBT students. This training, which provides support to teachers implementing my Department’s National Anti-Bullying Procedures for schools, is being provided on foot of one of the recommendations of the evaluation of the 2014 Stand Up! campaign.

This is why I am so pleased that my Department provided funding for the evaluation of the 2014 campaign. Its findings have proven very useful in showing the way forward for Stand Up! and how it can reach out to more of our young people. Feedback from both the young people and teachers who participated in Stand Up! last year was very positive.

I understand that BeLonG To plan to implement most of its recommendations this year including:  

  • changing the timing of Stand Up! to a less busy time in the school calendar  
  • broadening the outreach of Stand Up! to include Boards of Management and Parents Councils; and
  • building partnerships outside the school sector by promoting Stand Up! in the youth sector.

Update on the Action Plan on Bullying

The Government takes the issue of bullying very seriously. My predecessor established a Forum to discuss ways of tackling bullying in schools and subsequently to establish a Working Group to produce an Action Plan and plan a way forward.

As you may know, the Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to “encourage schools to develop anti-bullying policies and in particular, strategies to combat homophobic bullying to support students” and on foot of this Ministers Quinn and Fitzgerald launched an Action Plan on Bullying almost two years ago.

The Action Plan sets out twelve actions to help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and post-primary schools. These actions focus on support for schools, awareness raising and research.

Belong To was part of that Working Group and contributed to the very useful discussions on bullying in general and also brought the particular concerns of LGBT young people to the agenda.

The Action Plan sets out twelve actions to help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and post-primary schools. These actions focus on support for schools, awareness raising and research.

Since then a lot of progress has been made. New National Anti-Bullying Procedures for schools are currently being implemented by all 4,000 schools. Training materials for parents, teachers and boards of Management are also being developed and rolled out.

My Department has supported anti-bullying initiatives aimed at young people including Stand Up! and the Europe-wide initiative, Safer Internet Day.

Guidelines for post primary school staff and for Boards of Management in relation to homophobic and transphobic bullying are also being developed and it is hoped to roll these out in 2015.

Other groups, such as GLEN and the INTO, have also been involved in developed important resources. The Respect resource I launched earlier this year will support the whole primary school community in creating an inclusive and positive school climate, so that all children can flourish to the best of their abilities

A piece of research suggested in the Action Plan in relation to social media “The Prevalence and Impact of Bullying Linked to Social Media on the Mental Health and Suicidal Behaviour Among Young People” has been published. Another piece of research in relation to children with special needs will be published shortly.

As you can see a lot of resources have been spent on tackling bullying in our schools.  However, it is still incumbent on each and every one of us in the wider community to stand up to bullies, as this is not a problem that schools alone can tackle.

It is highly appropriate that we are launching the 2015 campaign here in the United Artists Club. The club is more than 100 years young and was founded by people from a variety of artistic and cultural backgrounds. Equality was at the heart of its mission as, unusually for those times, membership was open to men and women. The founders and supporters of the club were united by a common goal – to encourage and promote the arts in Ireland. 

Likewise the Stand Up! Campaign sees people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and interests come together to promote a cause they believe in – a cause that has the power to transform lives and build a more tolerant, accepting and culturally richer Ireland. 

Finally, I would like to thank all of those involved in organising this campaign. Your hard work and commitment really is appreciated.