'not okay' | 

RTE star Brendan Courtney tells teen attacked in Navan you are ‘loved and supported’

‘I used to refer to this as being bullied but it was more than that, it was a torture’

Brendan Courtney

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

RTE star Brendan Courtney has offered his support to the teen who was attacked in Navan and shared his own personal experience of bullying and abuse in a powerful message posted online.

The presenter urged the teen attacked in Navan to use channel anger "for good and for tolerance" in the Instagram post in which he reads out a letter.

Starting it with “Dear hero”, the fashion designer then promises, “things will get better, that’s what they say.

“They might, if you learn to hide in clear sight. If you learn to hide who you truly are, if you learn to conform and live under the veil of their hate.

“I don't know your story. But after hearing what has happened to you I feel compelled to write this letter.

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Five boys who were arrested on Friday, May 19, were later released without charge after they were questioned by specialist officers about their roles in the attack last week.

It was videoed, went viral online and ended up making international news headlines.

The video of the assault, which caused political outrage and shocked the nation, shows the 14-year-old boy walking out of school grounds at Beaufort College in Navan pursued by a group of other students.

One student punches the boy in the head, which emboldens others to attack him from behind. The boy tries to get away but falls to the ground where he is repeatedly kicked, punched and stamped on by up to five other students as he tries to crawl to safety.

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

In his video message to the teen, Brendan added "Sadly I understand your pain. I have been where you are. I had nowhere to hide.”

He explains that as “an obviously gay kid”, he “simply couldn't hide who I was because of who I am”.

"And truly believe me, I tried, I tried with all my heart to hide for all of my early years.

“I would have given anything to just fit in but you see, some of us just can't hide who we truly are.

"It's simply impossible. I was a camp, fey little kid who, until I was nine, was often mistaken for a girl which was sickeningly upsetting for one so young to feel so othered.”

He says he “tried everything to cover” but “all attempts failed and I paid the price”.

“I used to refer to this as being bullied but it was more than that, it was a torture.

"I was beaten and punched at school. I regularly had my head held down a toilet and flushed while onlookers jeered and laughed. I was humiliated daily.

"I was riddled with shame and I was 14, the same age as you, and my heart breaks for you.

“So what did I do?

"Well, I took matters into my own hands and I just stopped going to school. I would pretend to leave for school in the morning and then hide out in various locations for the school day.

“I often think back and actually feel enormous pride in myself for finding the strength to do that and to not let them break me.

"I realised I had to run for my own safety eventually, on day 20, the school contacted my mother and it all came out. I was taken out of that school and life improved but I had to reinvent myself.”

He says he only ever think of those bullies, “when I write these kind of letters”.

“They hold nothing over me, I feel sorry for them. And so off I went into my adult life and I became a TV presenter and a fashion designer, look at me go.

"I started working on TV in 1999 and held the impossible to confirm yet unprecedented title of Ireland’s first openly gay TV presenter.”

Brendan recalls how on one Friday night in 2014 walking down Georges Street in Dublin 2 with a group of friends, “a group of youths ran into the middle of our group and shouted ‘f*ggot’ and punched me hard in the face, knocking me to the ground.

"But this time I wasn't humiliated. I didn't feel shame. I was fu**cking angry.

"I took that anger and channeled it into the 2015 referendum on marriage equality and along with all the other people who spoke their truths we won. Love won.

“I have never met you but I want you to know on this battlefield, I love you,” Brendan declares.

“I am so desperately sorry this hideous attack has happened to you. This will change your life but it will not define you, it defines them. It's up to you now, how you deal with this.

"Be angry for now. You will feel afraid for a while but then take that anger and that fear and channel it for good.

" Tell your story everywhere and often because your story is now a huge part of how things change for good.

“I am so sorry your young life has now become a part of this awful battle but know you are loved and supported. This too will pass but things are not OK.”

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