Police say a school pupil received serious facial injuries in the Monday afternoon attack, which went viral in a video shared on social media.
Video of a brutal attack on a schoolboy in Ireland, which went viral on social media, has exposed the "increasingly unsafe" situation for LGBTQ+ young people in the country.
The video, which police have asked Euronews not to share, shows a teenage boy walking on a grass area in a housing estate near the school, pursued by a group of other students wearing the distinctive red and black colours of Beaufort College in Navan, a town 60km from the capital Dublin.
First, one student punches the boy in the head, which emboldens others to attack him from behind. The boy tries to get away but falls to the ground where he is repeatedly kicked, punched and stamped on by up to five other students as he tries to crawl to safety.
The attack reportedly happened because the 14-year-old is gay.
Ireland's police service says the boy received hospital treatment for "serious facial injuries," and that they're carrying out an investigation; while the local school board tells Euronews that "significant disciplinary procedures have been initiated at school level," and that counsellors are providing support to students.
Navan's mayor told local media the attack should be considered a "hate crime." Euronews sent the school a list of questions about the incident, and about the safety and inclusivity of LGBT students, but did not receive a reply.
Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is gay, described the attack as "horrifying."
"I grew up 1980s, 1990s Ireland. I had a great childhood but ultimately, I was the brown guy with the funny name who a lot of people suspected was gay so would have some insight into maybe what it’s like not to be the popular kid in school," Varadkar said during a radio interview on Thursday morning.
"All I’d say to the young man who was in that video, really feel for him, shouldn’t have been subjected to violence, shouldn’t have been humiliated by having that video posted online. It’s a very sick kind of individual that posts pictures and videos with the purpose of humiliating other people, and also the bystanders, you know, nobody intervened to help him," he added.
Varadkar said that social media companies have "a role to play" by taking down violent videos quickly, and cancelling the accounts of people who post and re-post such content.
Ireland's rising violence against LGBTQ+ people
Monday's after-school attack was by no means an isolated incident.
According to Belong To, a national organisation which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex young people in Ireland, there has been a rising level of anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the past 18 months which they describe as "deeply distressing."
"We know that members of our community feel increasingly unsafe in public spaces and that the Gardaí [police] saw a 29% increase in reports of hate crimes and hate-related incidents last year," Belong To said in a statement.
"These feelings of unsafety and uncertainty stand in stark contrast with the jubilance of 2015 as we welcomed Marriage Equality," they added.
Belong To has been working on a new programme for Irish schools which will make them better equipped to understand the needs of LGBTQ+ students, and give them to tools to be more proactive in working towards preventing violent incidents among pupils, through anti-bullying campaigns and clubs for allies within the schools.
"We have been able to work towards creating a school that is safe, supportive, inclusive, and representative of all of our students," explained Ben Condon from Dublin's Marino College, one of the schools which already completed the pilot programme.