By Shelley Marsden
A LEADING anti-bullying charity has said making discrimination against red hair a ‘hate crime’ will ultimately not resolve the issue.
It comes after the father of an Irish girl in Cumbria, who committed suicide after years of victimisation over her red hair, called for this type of discrimination to be classified as a ‘hate crime’.
Helena Farrell moved with her family from Galway to Kendal in 2001. The 15-year-old’s body was discovered in dense woodland less than a mile from her home in January, and though an inquest was carried out her father believes his daughter killed herself, partly to escape the daily torment her raid hair caused her.
Last week her father Enda, who is originally from Wexford, was prompted to speak out after last month’s unofficial Kick a Ginger Day – believed to have been inspired by US cartoon South Park – sparked a series of attacks on pupils across the UK.
He told the West Moreland Gazette that his daughter had been bullied for being ginger from a young age, and said: “People need to realise that when they say the things they do, it can have deeply traumatising effects and can lead to self-harm and suicide.
“Helena’s death was not just because of it but the bullying she faced all her life certainly contributed.”
Luke Roberts, National Co-ordinator of UK charity Anti-Bullying Alliance told the Irish World: “From our perspective, people with ginger hair being bullied is totally unacceptable. It is a tolerated form of discrimination – a casual, unchallenged cruelty. But there is a risk labelling it as criminal offence, because that means it only becomes a serious issue when people get caught, so the pressure is entirely on the victims.
He added: “For us at the Alliance, it is about tackling the underlying ideas of difference that lead to prejudice.”
For the full story, see this week’s Irish World newspaper (issue 7 Dec 2013).