SPOTLIGHT US Vice-President Elect, Mike Pence.
Hook in the West
WHEN I was nearing the end of my primary school years, I was beaten up by another boy in my class. It happened one day, during lunch break, when I tackled him during a friendly game of football. I took the ball off this kid and he didn’t like it, so he jumped on me and beat me up.
The whole thing caught me completely by surprise and it was over before I fully realised what had happened. I got a good few thumps and a couple of kicks to the stomach, but it was the shock of the attack and the unexpected ferocity of it that really shook me.
This kid had always been a bit of a loose cannon and a loner, liable to go off on one at the flick of a switch, but I never imagined it might be me on the receiving end of one of his tempers. I was a big enough kid for my age and never had too many problems with other lads at school, so this was a completely new experience for me.
I’ll never forget the feeling of going back to class that afternoon and the embarrassment of all the other lads staring at me. It was as if I was a different person to them, all of a sudden. As the hours crept on at a snails pace and I buried my head in my books, I was convinced that I would never be the same again.
Later that afternoon, when I got home, I told my mother what had happened. She was upset because I was upset and I made her promise not to tell anyone; not my dad, not the neighbours and certainly not anyone at school. I was so upset at the thought of her complaining to the headmaster that she reluctantly agreed not to tell anyone. But in her own head, she was furiously cooking up a solution to ease my worry.
The following day, after last class, my mother was waiting for me outside the school front gate. She walked up to the boy in question - who had shown no remorse for his attack and had, in fact, sniggered and laughed at me all throughout the day - and invited him back to our house for tea.
I couldn’t believe it. I literally stood there aghast, stunned and speechless. Amazingly, the boy agreed to come back, but his sneery expression at me suggested I was in for a rough evening. Sure enough, the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster. The young lad took every opportunity to mock me behind my mothers back, yet when we were all sat at the kitchen table for tea, he was as nice as pie to my parents, like butter wouldn’t melt.
I felt nauseous at the sight of this lunatic in my home. My house was my sanctuary, the one place I never had to worry about anything. Why had my mother invited this fella back to cause me more misery at home?
My mothers intentions were well meaning, but her optimism at a reconciliation was completely misplaced. It took me several weeks to forgive her for it and my confidence was shot to pieces because of the whole thing. Eventually, weeks later, I stood up to the boy and I never had a problem with him again. But the whole experience left a nasty taste in my mouth.
I was reminded of it this week when Enda Kenny embarrassed himself by fawning over the US vice-president elect Mike Pence. Our Taoiseach, in his wisdom, saw fit to post a message on social media, praising Pence for his knowledge of Ireland and its people:
“Had a really good conversation tonight with US VP Elect Mike Pence. He certainly knows Ireland and the issues that matter to our people.”
I had to do a double-take when I read the message. Was Enda Kenny, leader of our country, holding out an olive branch and an invitation to one of the most powerful Christian supremacists in US history? A man for whom gay people should be forced to undergo conversion therapy to alter their sexual behaviour? A man that openly detests the LGBT movement and has committed to criminalising abortion? An ACLU survey in 2002 gave Pence a seven percent rating on civil rights. I could go on.
The fallout from Donald Trumps surprise election to the White House has yet to subside in America, with protests on the streets and civil unrest dividing the nation, yet our Taoiseach sees fit to extend the hand of friendship, in the name of this country, to a man with a pretty deplorable stance on human rights. If timing is everything, Mr Kenny, you have got this one hopelessly wrong.
Perhaps our Taoiseach needs reminding that Ireland only recently celebrated a historic referendum result for the thousands of gay people living in this country. Kenny’s public support to a man that openly condemns all LGBT people is a slap in the face of that incredible moment in Irish history and it casts a shadow over Ireland’s gay community.
Mike Pence can do and say what he likes in his own country. As US vice-president, his ultra right-wing conservatism is bound to play itself out in a sweeping list of policy reforms, but as far as Ireland is concerned, he can keep his disgusting views on his own soil.
As long as he preaches hate, he is not welcome in Ireland and Mr Kenny would be well advised to hold his tongue and consider his words before he acts in the future. My mother meant well when she invited that bully over all those years ago. I’m sure our Taoiseach meant well on this occasion. But Pence is a bully. And he has no business coming to Ireland as long as his bigoted views remain.