Thursday, March 14, 2013

An Irish Activist In The White House

Michael Barron, has been invited to the White House to meet with senior administration official's marking St. Patrick's Day.  He is the director of BeLonG To, Ireland’s national service and advocacy organization for LGBT youth and the first ever gay activist from Ireland invited.  He has been named the Person of the Year at the 2013 National Gay and Lesbian Awards in February.  

The unprecedented invitation comes in recognition of BeLonG To’s groundbreaking work nationally and internationally to combat bullying in schools and for advocating for national policy changes in education, drug and alcohol and suicide prevention. 

LGBT issues, thanks to a directive from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are a foreign policy objective of the Obama administration. In Paris last year, to talk about his organization’s goals, Barron shared the stage with under secretary for education Russlynn Ali, creating a connection between Barron and the U.S. government.

Then last September the American Embassy in Dublin asked Barron to attend an International Visiting Leaders Program in the U.S. organized by the State Department.

Bullying, according to a recent study, is an epidemic in U.S. schools. One in six American school children report being bullied verbally, physically and online, two to three times a month or more, many for more than a year.

In Ireland the organization’s work has been complicated by the Catholic ethos of most second level schools, which can take a hostile response to the organization’s advocacy.
“We’ve been at it for 10 years and it’s been a tough battle,” Barron explains. “It hasn’t been an easy task.
“There’s a very strong influence of the Catholic Church in Irish education, which does act as a barrier to creating schools that are LGBT friendly. We’ve made great progress nonetheless.”

This year BeLonG To worked with the Irish Department of Education to produce a national anti-bullying action plan. The plan states that bullying is based on prejudice, and it has created an action plan with a lot of resources behind it to combat bullying wherever it appears.

1 comment:

Simon Finnegan said...

Michael is a legend