Bullying of immigrant children has become a major problem in Tramore, according to the town’s Mayor, Cllr. Joe Conway.

Confirming instances of racial abuse, particularly of children playing in open spaces in the resort, he has issued an appeal urging people to be vigilant and to do what they can to preserve kids’ joy and innocence.

“Witnesses to any form of abuse or bullying should contact the gardai and parents should be watchful lest their children engage in such practice”, said the Mayor, retired Principal of Killea National School.

And he maintained that some adults were also guilty of abuse, mainly of black children whose presence in the town they seemed to resent. “I’ve heard reports of such people advising non-white immigrants in no uncertain terms to go back to where they came from”, he stated.

The Mayor’s pronouncements are topical in a week when the RTE programme Prime Time Investigates highlighted on Monday night some horrible instances of bullying in schools around the country.

“It has come to light that older children – and indeed, sadly, some adults – have been taunting and baiting immigrant children at play. It appears that black children are particularly at risk”, he reported.

He went on to say that whatever people might feel about the question of racial integration, it struck him as being pretty low to inflict their prejudices on children doing what all children everywhere love to do – playing with their friends.

“For the victims, it is really upsetting and destabilising. I have had people arrive at my home in tears – parents and children – after such incidents”, he said.

He continued: “We have a national play policy, Ready, Steady, Play, and Waterford County Council has its own play policy for the past four years. Fundamental in both of these is the affirmation of the importance of play in developing healthy, balanced adults. To have children racially abused while at play is the very antithesis of such policies.

“Schools are working assiduously at integration measures for immigrants. Cross-cultural weeks have been superbly organised – as has been seen at Glór na Mara in Tramore, to instance but one. But there is an onus on the wider public to acknowledge the vulnerability of children and help enable them play unmolested in their innocent childhood years”.