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My son was asked by his teacher if men can breastfeed. Have we learned nothing from the past? 

My teacher went to prison for child molestation. And he wasn’t the only one. Ireland has a long history of institutional abuse where Christian brothers, priests, and lay teachers secured positions of power to exploit children. I should know, I was one of those kids.

These teachers made children think there was a special connection between us and them. Something that society didn’t understand. Our little secret. Any curious kid was fair game. The shy one, too. The awkward child. The ones who felt out of place. And though many parents and good teachers feared something was happening they remained silent.

It was decades later before my teacher went to jail because, at the time, he wasn’t just protected by the State, but our education system thought it prudent to provide funds to allow him to build his own private bathroom in the class. Why walk all the way to a crowded public toilet when you can rape a kid in the comfort of your own classroom.

I have five children of my own now. Today, one of my sons along with the rest of his class was asked by his teacher if men can breastfeed. He hesitated. Not because he’s transphobic. Not because he’s Far-Right. Not because he’s a Nazi. Not even because his mother is a lactation consultant. He hesitated because outside school he has been taught to exercise his brain. And, for that hesitation, he was publicly shamed by his teacher.

It reminded me that last month, a well-paid Irish politician used his Dáil privilege to discuss a group is comprised of mothers who want to protect their children from the same education system that failed to observe a private bathroom in the classroom of a pedophile. The women have asked for the removal of State-promoted books in libraries and schools that describe to children how to douche their rectum in advance of anal sex. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Three years ago, just before countless children were being robbed of a basic education due to lockdowns, the Irish National Teachers Organisation invited controversial British figure Elly Barnes to be the keynote speaker at their annual conference. From her pulpit, Barnes ridiculed the idea of informing parents about radical sex education. “Don’t send a letter home,” she laughed as she instructed the packed auditorium. ” That’s the worst thing you can do… Don’t hold a parents meeting.” Not a single teacher spoke up. Not one.

The well-paid Irish politician is a man who has publicly and proudly declared that he and his partner will allow their own newborn child to determine its gender. That’s their business. Good luck to all three of them. But he is also a man who sees no problem with exercising his political power to attack a group of women who have infinitely greater experience in bring up children than he will ever have.

When my son’s older brother attended school there was no such thing as a trans kid. Today, nearly a quarter of his younger brother’s class identify as trans or non-binary and students are being shamed by teachers for observing basic biology.

Even a moron can do those maths. Yet, once again, we remain silent.

This insidiousness within our collective consciousness is so strong that we allow our thoughts to be casually coerced, or we simply police them ourselves. Even these basic words will be shadow-banned by an algorithm or balked at by most before being left unread. Social and political disdain has become so powerful that when it comes to a choice between risking our kids and risking the wrath of being excluded, we pause to consider.

As for the kids being exploited now, down the line they will be shown the same indifference that homeless children are shown today. For parents and good teachers to refuse to recognise the impact of this ideological indoctrination in our children’s classrooms is to repeat the mistakes of the past and to wilfully identify as deaf, dumb and blind.

The well-paid Irish politician describes the concerned mothers as ‘Far-Right,’ and compares their instinct to protect their children with the Nazis burning books. And this ideology is so all-pervasive in our culture now that not only did nobody speak out, the well-paid politician was hailed for outing this dangerous group of far-right nazi mammies.

This is what we have done to language. To politics. To education. To trans people. To gay people. To boys and girls. To women. To everybody whose lives have been weaponised by rabidly self-righteous ideologues.

Imagine a sitting politician equating a group of concerned mothers with one of the most genocidal regimes in the history of humankind yet not a single man in that government chamber having the balls to stand up against it. That’s where we are at now. No wonder a group that used to be simply called women has to fight back, being surrounded by so many cowards that used to be called men.



Michael Flanagan

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