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Wednesday 31 August 2016

Family devastated after tragic Erin (13) takes own life after vicious online bullying

Greg Harkin

Published 29/10/2012 | 05:00

Erin Gallagher: death has stunned community
Erin Gallagher: death has stunned community

A 13-YEAR-OLD girl found dead at her home had told those who were bullying her online that she would kill herself.

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Erin Gallagher, from Ballybofey, Co Donegal, was found by relatives on Saturday night. Only 24 hours earlier, she had warned her tormentors that she would take her life.

Gardai have begun an investigation into the tragic schoolgirl's death.

Relatives were too upset to talk last night, but Erin's elder sister, Shannon, left a heart-breaking message on a Facebook tribute page saying: "No one deserved what you went through."

Erin's death comes just six weeks after Ciara Pugsley (15) took her own life in Dromahair, Co Leitrim, after being bombarded with hate messages on the ask.fm social networking site.

Ciara's father, Jonathan, told the Irish Independent last night that he was "completely devastated" that another teenager had taken her own life.

Erin had also been using the ask.fm site.

In a post on Friday, the day before she died, she responded to a comment which appears to refer to her being the victim of a physical attack in which she'd had her hair pulled.

She wrote back to her anonymous tormentors: "Do u think ur funny bulling me over ask.fm yeah u prob think it was funny when a f**in put a rope round my neck cause of yous, yous are that sad!

"Leave it now u had ur f**in fun get over it! My hair wasnt all over the ground trust me plus stop going round saying a got a bald patch I had or have no bald patch!"

Erin, who lived with her mother, Laura, and elder sister, Shannon, on the Silverwood estate in Ballybofey, took her own life 24 hours later.

She was a second-year pupil at Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, a mile from her home.

Devastated principal Frank Dooley told the Irish Independent: "The pupils and the staff at the school are very upset at Erin's untimely death and we want to pass on our deepest sympathies to her family.

"We are putting procedures in place to deal with this tragedy.

"Erin was a lovely girl, a very good pupil, who was very mannerly and pleasant in the classroom.

"I would appeal to parents to caution their children about comments they may make on the internet."

In her Facebook tribute, Shannon Gallagher wrote: "I love you darling. It's so hard to say you're gone. Everyone's heartbroken. I couldn't have asked for a better sister. You were a stunning girl. No one deserved what you went through.

"I'm sorry that I couldn't prevent it. Love you with all my heart."

Niall Mulrine, an IT expert who lives in Ballybofey and who gives anti-cyber bullying classes to pupils, parents and teachers, said Erin's death had left the community stunned.

"There has understandably been a huge outpouring of grief online following Erin's death," he said.

"It's unfair that any mother should lose a child of 13 to suicide. The communities in Ballybofey and Stranorlar are devastated.

Cruel

"I know this is a completely separate issue from what has happened to Erin, but the sad reality is that children aged six or seven are now on Facebook and their parents think it is okay. It isn't."

Ask.fm is a website where messages can be posted anonymously.

Sean Purcell, the CEO of the Donegal Vocational Education Committee, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Erin's family and the pupils and staff at Finn Valley College.

"This is obviously a hugely difficult time for everyone concerned. I have been made aware of the situation and I have been in touch with the principal and the necessary steps will be put in place to support all concerned."

A garda spokesman said: "Erin's body has been removed to Letterkenny Hospital for post-mortem examination as instructed by the coroner.

After Ciara Pugsley's death, ask.fm founder Mark Terebin told RTE: "We do understand the gravity of the situation and I sympathise with Ciara Pugsley's family.

"Of course there is a problem with cyber bullying in social media.

"But, as far as we can see, we only have this situation in Ireland and the UK most of all, trust me.

"There are no complaints regarding cyber bullying from parents, children or other sources in other countries.

"It seems like children are more cruel in these countries (Ireland and the UK)."

Irish Independent

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