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'couldn't deal with it' Teen (17) says racist bullying forced her to drop out of school

Róisín Hurley (17) grew up in the Clonakilty area of West Cork, having been adopted from China alongside her sister when she was one year old.

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Róisín Hurley

Róisín Hurley

Róisín Hurley

A teenager who was adopted from China as a baby had to leave an Irish school due to the amount of racism she was experiencing from her peers.

Róisín Hurley (17) grew up in the Clonakilty area of West Cork, having been adopted from China alongside her sister when she was one year old.

She said that while her life in primary school was happy, things began to take a turn for the worse in secondary school.

“I thought I was like everybody else,” she said. “And then once I got to secondary school, for the first half of the year in first year, it was going so smoothly. I didn’t think anything of it until some of my so-called ‘friends’ started pointing out stuff to me.

“Saying: ‘Oh your eyes look weird’, ‘Did you get hit in the face by a frying pan?’ And then that’s when I started to realise that I wasn’t the same as everybody else. And the comments kept going on, and on, and on. And I went through that for four years.”

After fourth year, Róisín decided to move to a different school before beginning fifth year, hoping it would provide a new start.

“Then the comments started rolling in again. And I said I just couldn’t deal with it, after five years I just couldn’t. So that’s when I decided to leave,” she said.

Before that, her mother, Denise Hurley, had discussed the racial abuse with her first school.

“My mam came into the school and she complained, but really they did nothing,” she said.

“One day, this girl was saying all these nasty things to me, so I just said back to her a nasty thing. And then once the whole thing got brought up, the teacher called both me and the girl out and she just made us apologise to each other and that was that.

“There was nothing really taken any further than that. There was no discipline at all. Because I just feel like the thing is being swept under the rug, like no one really talks about it.”

Her mother said that it was very difficult to see her daughter receive such hurtful remarks.

“It’s dreadful that she had to leave school,” she said. “It’s fine for me to say: ‘Oh take no notice’ – but I’m white. She is living through it. That’s the difficult part.

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“I can’t believe in a modern-day Ireland that this is still going on.”

Róisín added: “My mam couldn’t comprehend that people would say those things right to your face. She was so angry about it. She wanted to get rid of them, get them expelled and all this. But I just told her to be realistic, that’s not going to happen. All they’re going to say is: ‘Don’t do that again’.”

After receiving more racial abuse at her second school, it was Denise who suggested that Róisín should drop out. Róisín left school in November 2019.

“At first I felt regret, and I felt very lonely, because nobody texted me after, saying: ‘Where did you go? Are you OK?’,” she said. “Nobody messaged me at all. So I felt lonely and I also felt regret. Like I shouldn’t have left, but then I also felt I couldn’t go back either.”

Thankfully, things have turned around for Róisín since then. In October 2020 she set up a jewellery business called Draíocht. After learning about metal stamping, Róisín set up her business and has now sold more than 850 products, having shipped her creations around the world.

“She’s doing very well in her business, and I’ve backed her all the way, and I couldn’t be prouder of her,” Denise said.

In terms of the future, Róisín said: “I’m getting a custom shed to put all of my workshop into, because right now I’m working out of my bedroom and everything is looking like a factory.

“So it’s coming in the next few weeks. But I do want to make this into a full-time job.”

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