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Thursday 21 August 2014

Tribute to anti-suicide campaigner

Published 13/05/2013 | 15:12

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Anti-suicide campaigner Donal Walsh has died after a long battle with cancer (Kerry's Eye Newspaper/PA)

A 16-year-old anti-suicide campaigner who died after a long battle with cancer had more of an impact than any politician, a Government minister has claimed.

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Minister of State for Disability Kathleen Lynch said Donal Walsh had left an extraordinary legacy behind with his message that life is precious.

"Young people listen to their peers and Donal was such a mature voice in that whole area, and I think that is what struck people about him," said Ms Lynch.

"When he said when times are difficult, reach out, there is help there - his saying that had far more of an impact than any politician, any radio station and any of those things."

Donal, from Tralee, Co Kerry, was diagnosed with a tumour in his leg when he was 12. He underwent numerous treatments to fight the disease, which eventually moved to his lung. But he lost his battle over the weekend when he died at home in Blennerville surrounded by his family.

The teenager bravely campaigned against suicide, particularly among teenagers. Donal said recent cases in which youngsters had taken their own lives had angered him, as he spent every day fighting to survive the illness.

He died on the same weekend that suicide prevention charity Pieta House held its annual Darkness Into Light fundraiser. Up to 40,000 people took part in the 5km walk and run, to raise awareness of the suicide and self-harm crisis centre.

Hundreds paid tribute to the avid rugby fan on social network site Twitter, with politicians and sports stars describing him as a hero and an inspiration. More than 14,000 people followed Donal on Twitter, who wrote his last tweet on May 8. Earlier this month he tweeted that he had defied doctors' odds by surviving past Christmas. "They told me have an early Christmas, but I'm after making it from October to the summer," he tweeted.

Donal gave numerous radio, television and newspaper interviews throughout his illness, urging people considering suicide to seek help. He also made a video for the National Office for Suicide Prevention, which will be soon distributed to schools and put on the website.

Ms Lynch also paid tribute to Donal's parents Elma and Finbarr. She said it was clear his "generosity of spirit" had come from them. "Donal was extraordinary," she told RTE radio. "Someone that young, to be so articulate, to be so mature and even when he was having huge difficulties, to reach out to others. That's what I found so extraordinary about him."

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