Tuesday 28 January 2020

Abuse and protests 'demoralise' human rights campaigners

Campaigner Tanya Ward
Campaigner Tanya Ward

The human rights community is "demoralised" by the protests against a proposed direct provision centre and the racist abuse suffered by a family that appeared on supermarket TV ads.

Tanya Ward, the chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, made the remarks in the wake of the recent controversies.

A tender for a direct provision centre in Oughterard, Co Galway, was withdrawn after sustained protests in the town.

Separately, a family targeted with racial abuse online after they appeared in an ad for supermarket giant Lidl revealed they have left Ireland after receiving a death threat.

Fiona Ryan, from Co Meath, her fiance Jonathan Mathis, from the Cotswolds, and their 22-month-old son Jonah appeared in a television and billboard campaign for Lidl in September.

The couple revealed on RTE's The Late Late Show that they decided to return to England after receiving a threat that left them fearing for their lives.

Ms Ward was speaking at the launch of the #TeachMeAsMe campaign aimed at promoting individuality in schools.


"A lot of us in the human rights community are quite demoralised at the moment because of the protests around Oughterard and the experience refugees are having in Ireland," she said.

"You might have seen the experience that the Ryan family has had.

"They were on The Late Late Show on Friday and they were talking about leaving Ireland because of the abuse that they've experienced, particularly online and the death threats."

She said despite this she is "really encouraged" by the #TeachMeAsMe campaign spearheaded by Comhairle na nOg, saying it "tells me that actually people in Ireland really care about individuals and about being different".

The campaign is aimed at increasing the ability of students to show their individuality in schools.

Those at the launch listed a relaxing of rules on haircuts and piercings, as well gender neutral uniforms and items of clothing linked to religions like hijabs as things students want schools to allow.

A competition has begun to find the best examples of schools around the country that support their students in expressing their individuality.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said Comhairle na nOg had identified individuality as "a key aspect of equality in schools".

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