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Sunday 21 September 2014

Tragic Shannon was missing her sister, says grandfather

Ed Carty and Sarah Stack

Published 13/12/2012 | 10:55

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Erin Gallagher's mother Lorraine and sister Shannon
Pupils comfort each other outside Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, Co Donegal

THE grandfather of tragic schoolgirl Shannon Gallagher, who took her own life last night, has told how she had been missing her younger sister since her suicide in October.

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"She was on Facebook to my son last night talking, saying she was quite unhappy," James Gallagher said.

"She found it quite hard that she was wrapping up presents. She said she was missing her wee sister.

"Whatever happened last night when she was wrapping the presents up for her mum and her wee brother and people.

"Then she wrote on Facebook saying, 'This is the hardest thing I've had to do baby doll'. She called her wee sister baby doll," he added.

Shannon, 15, who paid emotional tributes following 13-year-old Erin's suicide, was found dead in Co Donegal last night.

The Donegal VEC, which runs Finn Valley College in Stranorlar which both girls attended, said they were "trying to find the words and response to the tragedy".

"The school would still be in crisis mode," chief executive Shaun Purcell said.

The Gallagher family, from Ballybofey, are "completely distressed" by the tragedy, according to reports.

An aunt of the Gallaghers appealed for privacy for the family.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he was "deeply shocked and saddened to learn of Shannon's death".

A crisis incident team has been put in place at Finn Valley College after staff were notified of the tragedy this morning.

Two psychologists, guidance counsellors, principal Frank Dooley and other teaching staff are meeting to assess how to support students.

Shannon was found dead about midnight last night at a house in a townland known as Stranamuck, near Castlefinn, Co Donegal, several miles from her family home.

A death notice for the teenager said she would be sadly missed by mother Lorraine, brother Sean James (aged four), grandfather, uncles, aunts, relatives and school friends.

The funeral mass for Shannon is to be held in the same church, St Mary's Stranorlar, at 11am on Saturday morning followed by burial in Castlefin cemetery.

A crisis incident team made up of two psychologists, guidance counsellors, Finn Valley principal Frank Dooley and other teaching staff met this morning in the school to discuss how to support students.

A team of counsellors has been on site since Erin's death to support pupils.

Mr Purcell, who spent most of the day in Finn Valley College, said the primary concern was the welfare of pupils and staff who were "going from hour to hour".

"This is an extremely difficult time for all concerned. The critical incident team is in place in the school as a support for students and staff," he said.

"We request that the appropriate agencies are allowed the necessary time and space to support the school."

Hundreds of mourners attended Erin's funeral, where parish priest Fr John Joe Duffy said society had failed the youngster.

He urged young people at the mass to talk more openly about their problems and called on agencies responsible for the care of children to prevent a similar death.

Erin had posted comments on a social networking site before her death on October 27, reacting to people she claimed had been bullying her.

Investigations were launched into claims that she had been a victim of cyber bullying.

Incidents of vandalism and intimidation in the Ballybofey/Stranorlar areas have been reported to gardai in the wake of Erin's death, with concerns over tensions among local teens.

Gardai have been investigating claims of cyber bullying and it is understood a number of teenagers have been interviewed by officers.

The girl's grandfather, James Gallagher, described Erin as an amazing girl and her suicide "a waste of a life" in the weeks after her death.

The HSE West said today: "The HSE extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased.

"The HSE is liaising with the family in relation to this incident and all supports are being made available to provide assistance at this difficult time."

- Anyone in need of support is urged to contact Childline on 1800 666 666 or text 'Talk' to 50101, Samaritans on 1890 200 091, or Console suicide prevention on 1800 201 890.

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