Sunday 22 October 2017

Mum re-lives horror of tragic Erin's bullying torment

Erin Gallagher
Erin Gallagher
Erin Gallagher's mother Lorraine
Principal Frank Dooley
Pupils comfort each other outside Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, Co Donegal

Greg Harkin

THE mother of the 13-year-old girl who took her own life after being targeted by bullies reported the harassment to gardai two months ago.

Lorraine Gallagher (36) wept as she recalled the final evening with her daughter, Erin, before she died.

Erin, a pupil at Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, was found dead at her home in nearby Ballybofey on Saturday evening.

"We had a takeaway and some sweets and she seemed fine," said Ms Gallagher.

"The bullying had been really bad, but it seemed like she was getting better.

"It had been going on since the summer but got much worse when she got back to school.

"She was bullied in school, on Facebook and through messages on her phone. I spoke to the school to get their help."

The bullying began in August, got steadily worse through September and escalated this month.

Ms Gallagher said she went to the gardai about it.

"They said if there was no proof or if she wasn't being physically touched by the bullies, there was nothing they could do," she said.

"Erin couldn't prove who was doing it, but we believed we knew who it was.

"She was beautiful, a lovely, lovely girl who never did anyone any harm in her life."

Last night, Ms Gallagher posted a comment on Facebook thanking people for their messages since her daughter's death.

"Thank you everyone for all the support you have given my daughter Erin," she wrote on an RIP page.

"We can't bring Erin back, but her death can help other kids in her situation and that means she never dies for nothing."

Psychologists

Erin, who would have been 14 on November 8, was being waked last night at her aunt Myra's home in the village of Killygordon.

Her headmaster, Frank Dooley, said he had spoken to the teenager last Wednesday.

"I met her last week and she seemed fine," he said. "I was one of her teachers last year."

Parents and pupils yesterday spent two hours at Finn Valley where nine health professionals including psychologists were on hand to provide advice and counselling.

Mr Dooley said the 300-pupil school had implemented a critical incident management plan on Saturday night as soon as he had learned of Erin's death.

"We are extremely upset," said Mr Dooley, who appealed to parents throughout Ireland to help combat the scourge of online bullying.

"I would urge parents to monitor what their children are doing on the internet," he said.

"They should counsel children about what Chinese whispers are and that when messages are passed on they get corrupted, they get changed and they become a lie and they spread much more quickly now through social media.

"We tell children here too that when they post something online it is there to stay."

The parents of all pupils at the college were contacted on Sunday. A meeting of parents and children is being scheduled for after Erin's funeral which will take place at St Mary's Church in Stranorlar tomorrow at 11am.

Last night hundreds of people lined the streets of Killygordon as Erin's remains arrived at her aunt's home. Mr Dooley said he had advised parents that they should accompany any children who wished to attend the wake.

Donegal county councillor Cora Harvey said the Finn Valley area had been left numbed by the tragedy.

"The whole community is asking why a terrible thing like this happened. Everybody needs to respond in a positive way," she said.

Gardai have refused to comment on Ms Gallagher's claim that she made a complaint about bullying two months ago.

Irish Independent

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