Author on bullying wants to change the dictionary definition of the term

The author of an award winning book on bullying is spearheading an online global campaign to change the dictionary definition of the word.

Terri Ryan’s new book entitled The Bullies Predatory Footprint and the petition was launched by the former governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan, earlier this week.

Lousie O’Keeffe, who won a landmark victory at the European Court of Human Rights earlier this year - when it ruled in her favour that the Irish State had been negligent in protecting her from abuse at primary school - was the guest speaker.

Ms Ryan, a former second level teacher and senior manager who lives in Renmore, says the current definition of the word “bully” is defined as “a person who uses strength or influence to harm and intimidate those who are weaker”.

This definition is “pejorative” she believes, because it belittles the the person who does not use harm and intimidation by defining them as the weaker party.

“It defines the victim as the weaker person rather than defining the bully as a person that uses ‘harmful and intimidating’ behaviour that is abusive,” she outlines.

The campaign will ask the editors of the Oxford Dictionary, Cambridge University Press and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to review and change the definition to reflect popular opinion and define a bully and the behaviour of “bullying” as the use of abusive and offensive behaviour.

Ms Ryan says the meaning of words change according to popular opinion and she is calling on the public to support her campaign.

“I want us to send a message from Galway and Ireland to seek to define a bully and the use of bullying behaviour as the use of harmful and intimidating behaviour which is ‘abusive’ and ‘offensive’.”

The third time non-fiction author has won international awards for her book, including a silver medal in the prestigious US Foreword Reviews Book Of The Year competition. The publication is aimed at parents, employees, managers and those who wish to understand and eliminate the negative effect of bullying from their community, education and enterprise.

Little monitoring of bullying incidents takes place in Ireland, according to Terri Ryan, a former science teacher who is originally from Cork. She says it is not mandatory to report or record incidents of bullying in schools and the workplace.

“No methodology is in place in any of these areas to compile statistics,” she outlines. “This makes it difficult for policymakers and governments to determine what changes in terms of policy, procedures and legislation are required in a constantly changing environment.”

During a period working in the public service she witnessed a particularly bad case of bullying, she says. “A very proud man with 30 years’ work experience was repeatedly humiliated and stripped of his dignity and responsibilities in front of his colleagues. This which made me question the existence of policies and legislation that protected employees from this behaviour.”

She states while the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 places obligations on employers to prevent as far as is practically possible improper conduct in the workplace, and makes it an offence not to discharge that duty, it remains “unusual” to find anti-bullying policies in place.

She says research indicates that a “weak management function” is the single biggest cause of workplace bullying.

“Surveys in specific occupational groups such as nursing, the health sector and the teaching profession have particularly high rates. While these professions were traditionally looked at exclusively as vocations, they have now evolved into complex management functions with little or no management standards or input on the management and prevention of bullying behaviour which is an occupational hazard in these professions and can interfere hugely with the service they provide.”

* Terri Ryan’s book The Bullies’ Predatory Footprint costs €10.50 and is on sale from the following outlets:- Dubray’s, Shop Street, Charlie Byrne’s, Cornstore, Middle Street, and the Cathedral Bookshop. It is available on Kindle and ebook for €8.

* To sign her petition log on to www.


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