Kiernan Gildea. Exclusive Interview

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Kiernan Gildea, former Chief Commissioner of Youth Programme, former Provincial Commissioner of Dublin and recent candidate for the office of Chief Scout, spoke exclusively to theirishscouter earlier this summer.

Kiernan, thank you for speaking with theirishscouter.

A lot of members in Scouting Ireland will be curious to understand the chain of events that led to you deciding to withdraw from the election for Chief Scout, at National Council in April 2015.

As you possibly know, you are a very well-known member of the association and someone who is well-regarded, so it was all the more unexpected and indeed shocking that you withdrew from the race so close to the election.

IS: Can you provide some background?
KG: When I decided to seek the position of Chief Scout, I made a commitment to participate in the campaign and indeed the role of Chief Scout, by pursuing a number of principles. The first of these is Transparency.

This is the toughest principle to live up to. Many people will know that I am gay. Some may not. However, I’m also a man of my generation. I grew up at a time when to be gay was both a crime and a sin, so I have tended to be very low key about it. Like many gay people, I have lived pretty much a double life as a result. I don’t wish for it to define who I am in the minds of others – and of course I fear that some people still believe that to be gay is to be bad or perverse. I also suffer with depression since the death of a colleague in Kenya in 1997.

IS: Why did you withdraw your candidacy?
KG: Something happened on the eve of National Council. On the Friday afternoon I received an anonymous email. I was at home on my own. (My boss had told me to take the day off!) Whatever the intentions of the sender of that message my response to it was to immediate collapse. I was both in shock and having a physical and mental breakdown. All the years of repressed fear around being gay alongside a deep sense of guilt and responsibility for what happened in Kenya flooded over me. The message triggered a flood of bad feelings about myself and convinced me that I was letting everyone in my life down in the most hurtful way and that the principles that I strive to live by were all a lie.

IS: What was in this email that made you react in this way?
KG: Insinuations and threats were made in the email, which put into question my suitability to be an adult in Scouting. There was even a reference to my professional life. I have revealed all (and more) to the relevant people in Scouting Ireland, to my boss at work, and indeed to family and close friends. In every case I have completely accepted their judgement. I sit here now wearing my neckerchief.

I’m not Chief Scout as I felt I had to withdraw from the election to both protect Scouting Ireland and myself. I had no time to think straight – I had collapsed – and it was only a few hours to voting.

IS: Clearly an individual (or individuals) were very determined to stop you taking on the role of Chief Scout. You were the favourite to win the election by quite a margin. Do you think you were perceived to be posing a threat to some vested interests in Scouting?
KG: I am not sure how anyone could perceive me as a threat – and to what in any event?
I’m an ordinary guy. I am gay. I am also 58 years of age. I am a lifelong Scout. I live alone – indeed I am often lonely. I like motorbikes and mountain biking. I like hill walking. I love Scouting, particularly with my own local Scout Group (Aughrim Street).

I have a few close friends and it would appear that I have some enemies. I’m nothing special – we all have a story to tell and live with all sorts of traumas and difficulties. I’ll be doing what I can to find some equilibrium over the next few weeks and months and I’d like to think that I’ll become a better champion of inclusivity in Scouting along the way.

IS: Do you believe that homophobia and misogynistic behavior are widespread in Scouting, just hidden by a thin veneer of tolerance?
KG: No. I believe the overwhelming majority of people in Scouting are kind, decent people who believe in fairness, inclusivity and openness. There are clearly a small minority – a tiny minority – who do not. In the grand scheme of things, these people cannot influence the overall direction of Scouting.

IS: Well, could it be argued that they did in fact influence the direction of Scouting – they sabotaged a democratic vote by ‘taking out’ the lead candidate for the top job in Scouting?
KG: There are many other people in Scouting Ireland who can take on the job of Chief Scout. There will be an election in September and National Council will choose the best candidate. In the long run, the association will get the right Chief Scout.

IS: Democracy can be delayed but not prevented?
KG: Something like that I suppose

IS: Are you going to seek election in September?
KG: I have thought long and hard about this, but I have decided not to do so. There may be other opportunities in the future. For now, it is up to others to seek election and, if successful, set out a vision for Scouting that can restore some core values into national scouting and facilitate a vision that can unite everyone behind a common purpose

IS: Is Scouting divided?
KG: I think we have veered away in recent years from some of the core principles that were behind the original vision of Scouting Ireland. The Scout Group, not National Office, for example, needs to become the centre of Scouting once again. That will require leadership.

But Scouting also needs a vision. I don’t mean a document drafted by the NMC that nobody else gets input to or even reads. I mean a vision that is widely discussed, agreed upon and understood by everyone. A true vision for Scouting in Ireland will be brought to life by local Scout Groups. National Office has a role to help facilitate this, but if its driven centrally, it won’t gain the momentum needed.

IS: What next for Kiernan Gildea?
KG: Perhaps some good will come out of the trauma that I’ve experienced. I feared at the time that people would give up on me because I was letting them down by withdrawing from the Chief Scout election. I have struggled with two social stigmas – being gay and suffering from depression. Perhaps I can better help others to deal with similar issues in their lives. I can at least show that despite everything I can carry on and be happy with who I am – and while not being Chief Scout, to strive to act like one.

IS: How have the past weeks and months been, as you’ve sought to put these events behind you?
KG: I have been very lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who have shown me copious and unconditional support and love over the past weeks. Without this, I would have really struggled to cope. I am not yet fully back on track, but I hope to be at some stage. I just need a little bit more time to recover.

Kiernan Gildea was talking to Garrett Flynn from theirishscouter.

34 thoughts on “Kiernan Gildea. Exclusive Interview”

  1. Truly shocking story; fair play to Kieran for making a brave decision and (rightly in my view) putting his health first. It is a serious indictment on Scouting in this country that such a choice had to be made.

  2. Thank you Kiernan, I am saddened and disappointed that this happened to you. I do wish you well as you continue in Scouting and dealing with your illness. Your contribution to Scouting has been outstanding and has benefitted many

  3. Thanks for speaking about what happened Kiernan, though I’m sure it’s tough, I think it’s good to get this out of the rumour mill and show the work we still have to do to make sure Scouting is a safe and welcoming activity for all.

    Having seen your enthusiasm and participation at a few national events and MPCs, it’s clear to me that you’d make a fantastic representative for Scouting and it’s a real shame for the association to lose that opportunity. I’m sure I would have done the same in your position, and would possibly retreat entirely from Scouting.

    Well done for not giving in to this small-minded bully, and please remember that the majority of the association is completely behind you, and eager to help if we can. I hope the pain this has no doubt caused will ease soon.

    Neil
    1st Wicklow — 2nd Dublin Scouts

  4. What a great scouter and person kieran is a true scouter I have known him to see for many years and have watched his love for.scouting his own personal life is his own business and he never should be judged on that didn’t god ask us.to love one another some people are in scouting for.all the wrong reasons fair play to kieran for such a.good interview I have no doubt he.will be a future chief scout and I look forward to that best wishes kieran

  5. I would not profess to know Kiernan well, we’ve met a few times through the relatively (compared to him) short time I have been a Scout in Ireland. I do know him to be a kind and caring individual who wants nothing but the best for all Scouts in Ireland and elsewhere in the world. We had some insightful conversations during the time we spent on the last campaign trail and swapped a few motorcycling stories, an interest we share.
    That he felt an interview such as this was necessary shows just how much Scouting means to him and shines the glaring light of honesty into the dark places where the low individuals who sought to bring him down are hiding. Keep the bike between the ditches Kiernan and your eyes on the horizon! Bravo bravissimo! Very well done.

  6. Hi Kiernan I just want to say well done, again you have proved how honest you are, how transparent you are, having to speak about your own personal life to nation is not an easy thing to do. You would have made a fantastic chief scout and hopefully some day you will. I believe, like many others that you would have made a difference. I wish you a speedy recovery and all the very best for the future and most of all to thank you for contribution you have made to scouting, kindest regards Finbarr Quirke 82nd Cork

  7. I’m in total shock after reading this.As a former member of 10th troop Aughrim st I have known kiernan Gildea for quite a number of years. We may not have always seen eye to eye, but a more upstanding human being, giving his all to scouting, I have never met. Bí ullaimh kiernan.
    I salute you sir.
    Yours
    Joe Delaney

  8. Shocking stuff. Especially from someone in scouting. God knows what was said in that email and fair play to kiernan for being so open about it!

    I still wonder what happened with the election however. Did people still think it was ‘Undemocratic’ to vote for Sean farrell. He had put as much in the election as kiernan and to be told no was a travesty for scouting Ireland too!

  9. Hi Kieran

    I have never known another Kiernan Gildea only the professional, enthusiastic, generous scouter who is so passionate about scouting. It is sad that someone who is so giving and contributed so much to scouting should be targeted and treated like he has been. The person or persons who have done this to him should be identified for what they are and in my opinion have no place in our association. Congratulations on your open and honest account of all you are going through and gone through in the past, i sincerely hope that by publicly speaking out you will have helped yourself and find out how truly well liked and respected you are.
    Yours in the true spirit of scouting

    Dick Ridge
    10 Galway Portumna

  10. As a former member of Scouting Ireland (and SAI before that) I always found Kiernan to be a true gentleman Scouter. i hope and pray that he can continue to contribute positively to Scouting Ireland.
    God bless, Kiernan.

  11. Wow, who would send such a letter and what does it say about that person that they wouldn’t even sign their name. Animus letters should be binned before they are ready.

    Reading down through the above interview made me feel very emotional. Scouting is a wonderful organisation, which I’d like to think of as inclusive. It promotes friendship, loyalty and good morals and values. I guess in every walk of life you get people putting you down and sabotaging events.

    Kieran, it is great that you have family and friends supportting you, try to focus on all the good things you have done for scouting and and the positive moments scouting has brought to you. It would be great, if you can rise above this and as you said focus on helping others in scouts going through the same as you. Let this be a small stumbling be a small stumbling block, preceeding many more years of great leadership. many leaders of the world will experience these negative actions, and you, like them can overcome this. Scouting needs you.

  12. Kiernan, what can I say. I have known you for many many years and we have had many a debate and discussion. To me you are Mr Scouting and everything that you have done has been for the better of scouting. It is so sad that some gutless person saw fit to send an email that affected your health, your chance to be Chief Scout and sadly worse again is that it is possible that this person is a member of Scouting Ireland. Your vision is an excellent one and it is long overdue that the membership have a say in where we go. Kiernan, you have good family and friends and many many friends in Scouting, don’t let the bad apples stop you in our dreams and vision, we need you in Scouting Ireland. Kiernan, by speaking out, I feel that you will give hope to many in scouting that are suffering hidden torment and fear in their lives and I look forward in the future to working with you and to you being Chief Scout. Tommy

  13. I am shocked, I can not believe that Kiernan has been treated in this way. When you become a scout you promise to keep the scout law, I would like the person who sent the email to consider their promise to keep the scout law, maybe they need to go back and have a look at it again, it would appear they have forgotten it.
    I have known Kiernan for a few years, and he is a wonderful person and a brilliant scout. His courage and strenght of character always impressed me, I am saddened to think his courage is being put to the test by the very people he srtives to serve.
    This interview must has been very hard to do, but I am glad you did it as people should know the thruth.
    On the field of play, when your marker has to resort to comitting a foul, thats when you know you have them beat. .Kiernan, you have them beat, all that remains is to go out and play and enjoy the game.

    Take care.
    .
    .
    .

    1. I have read your response to the questions you were asked and I’m in total admiration of your complete and truthful answers to same . You have my respect and best wishes for the future I believe you are what Scouting is about, pity we still have some bigoted small minded people in this great organisation.
      . Y.i. S
      Michael Lowe 5th/ 10th St Joseph’s Limerick.

  14. Kieran,

    You were camp chief for our sub camp at the Melvin in Kilcully in 1998 and your enthusiasm for all things scouting has stuck with me to this day. When I heard you were going for Chief Scout I said to my dad (Declan Whyte) that it was a role made for you. I’m shocked at the events but glad that you put your health before anything. Best of luck in the future in whichever road you choose.

    Niamh Whyte, formerly of 80th Dublin

  15. Kiernan,

    Although I have not seen you in almost 15years, I still consider you a great friend in Scouting. You and your leaders were a fantastic help to me and my troop (160th Ardlea) and it was always appreciated. I feel aggrieved that the best candidate had to withdraw under those circumstances. I wish you the very best in scouting and in your private life and hope that scouting can become more open and forgiving in the future.

    Wishing you the very very best of luck.

    Yours in Scouting,

    Declan Whyte.

  16. Having had a read of this makes you feel let down by some people who themselves scouters and till do this to a fellow one is beyond belief welldone kiernan for doing this interview you are a true scout and a top man hope everythingis well and you maybe get the chance again in the future.when things like this happen just makes you wonder why some people are in scouting really don’t get it

  17. Brave man Kiernan Guildea I remember your Melvin speech in Larch Hill many years ago asking the scouts would they like to be a Tiger or a lamb !!!! Going through life,Your definitely a Tiger Today Best wishes Kiernan Joe & Sandra Glanmire Cork

  18. Thank you for your openness and honesty Kiernan. I think back to our meeting in Tintern abbey! I was delighted u decided to run and shocked at your withdrawal. The sender of that email should be kicked out of scouting ireland as should anyone who helped prevent Sean Farrell from being elected. Both of you well capable of being chief scout. I hope you will put your name fwd again as u wld make an honest truthful and honourable chief. Always glad to be there for you and thank you for the many years of friendship.. Love Ann and gordon x

  19. I have no idea if Kiernan is reading these but he should,I would be classified as part of the younger generation of leaders in scouting, well maybe not thinking about it, but I know that this is definitely not the scouting Ireland I was brought into. I was brought into one of inclusiveness and fun no matter who you were, at the end of the day your were a scout and scout alone. I thank Kiernan for all he has done thus far to make everyone feel welcome and included and I would support him 100% if he decided to go into helping kids with depression or any form of bullying. You are a hero and always stand for your beliefs Kiernan, scouting backs you all the way and if you decided to run again, I know scouting will make it happen.

  20. Hi Kiernan just wanted to say thank you for your many years of Scouting and all you have done for the organisation. There is no place in Scouting for the bully who sent you that mail, I wish you a speedy recovery and hope you return to Scouting soon, proud to be one of your fellow Scouters nothing but respect and love for you.
    noel 179th Huntstown

  21. Thanks for being so honest and open in this interview. As some one relatively new to scouting I am happy there are people like you who are moving the organisation on into the future with dignity and good feeling.All the best for full health and many more years happy scouting.

  22. Dear Kiernan

    I write this as someone who was for many years involved in Irish Scouting, and who is of the same generation as you. I write it also as someone who didn’t always see eye to eye with you, if indeed we ever saw eye to eye at all. And finally, I write as someone who shares the same two stigma and had to deal with both.

    This really must have been a nightmare for you, and I can only begin to guess at the pain you must have suffered. No human deserves to be treated in this way, least of all one who is so generous, giving and self-sacrificing.

    We are both old enough to have chanted the rhyme “Loyal, Trustworthy, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Pure and God’s Glory in mind”. If the old Scout Law was a question on the “decency syllabus” for the leaving cert exam, there are few people who would come closer to achieving an A1.

    I’ll stick my neck out here and say that I believe that there are three things you should do.

    1 – Get yourself better – only you can do this, but you have the tenacity, inner strength and by the sounds of it the ambient support needed to do this. This is the most important and must come first.

    2 – Emerge stronger than before, and there is no doubt that you will; still having all your old strengths and adding to them with the strength that comes from surviving a nightmare

    3 – Give serious thought to running for National office in Scouting Ireland when you are ready and the opportunity presents itself. It is easy to understand the fears and risks and doubts that this will pose. But realise this. You will emerge from this stronger than before. You are living in a different, less judgemental and oddly more Christian and more accepting Ireland. You have as much to give to a leadership role now as you ever had, probably more. And most importantly, you would give the huge decent majority in Scouting Ireland an opportunity to voice their distaste for what was perpetrated and to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and demonstrate in the clearest possible terms that Scouting is decent, modern, principled, inclusive and truly all embracing. Such a vote would send a clear and unambiguous message to every sufferer of every stigma. It is a risk, I’ll grant you that, but that was never something that you shied away from. And if by any chance you stand for some such position and aren’t elected, well that would be Scouting Ireland’s loss, not yours.

    I wish you only good things

    Godspeed

  23. Its worring to see, that scouting to which i used to call ,home can be so callouse and unforgiving as to allow this true LGBT hero, to be treated in such a way , i have read a lot of the the support that kieran has gotten and ill add mine to it but as a scout leader who is also gay i feel that i like others are not being protected, which is not just immoral im pretty sure its illegal. But more than that its just unfair to see a person being treated as such for being who, they are. I myself have yet to tell my group out of fear, but when i do ill being doing it knowing that i wont go quietly and i believe that those in power in SI need a wake up call, to be supportive to me and others
    Martin 79th Dublin

  24. I would like to echo the positive comments towards Kiernan, express my deep disappointment in how he was treated and I wish Kiernan well in his recovery.

  25. Hi Keirnan
    I see that the old network is alive and kicking in the association I loved
    when you and I were Commissioners.
    Don’t let them bring you down, I wish you all the best for the future Keirnan, get yourself well first and come back fighting

    All the best
    Matt Mulhall
    Former National Connissioner Venturers

  26. Dear Kiernan,
    sorry to hear what has happened to you. I’m truly disgusted to think somebody in Scouting has done such a nasty thing. They definitely forgot what scouts is about. It was a brave thing to you for share it with everyone. I hope that all this support will help you to get through this and you know lots of people who don’t think like that. Let’s hope that it will set the stone rolling in the right directing. If everyone gives it a small push we can go a long way.
    regards, Janette Pfetzing, Oranmore Scouts

  27. Hi Kiernan,

    What a disgrace that someone with no sense of what being a Scout is about should elect themselves Judge and Jury on your lifestyle choice.

    And in the society we are lucky to live in today, who would have cared?

    I still fondly remember[the now] Senator David Norris when he was the keynote speaker at one of our National Councils in Dublin many years ago. He congratulated us then on inviting a gay man to address a Scouting conference and called us a forward thinking organisation.

    I would like to thing that the vast majority of our organisation are inclusive and welcoming to people of all creed, colour, gender and persuasion.

    I have known you for many years now Kiernan and your dedication to and support of Scouting was never in any doubt.

    Stay the course, allow the smell of woodsmoke overpower the smell of prejudice and don’t lose faith in us as we need people of your caliber.

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