Friday 24 October 2014

Use the law to deal with bullies or there will be more funerals

The tragic death of Erin Gallagher is the tip of a massive iceberg that destroys children's lives, writes Niamh Horan

During the summer holidays, as 13-year-old Erin Gallagher was preparing to face into another school year, she was asked by one of her friends what her biggest fear was.



"That I'll be bullied again," came her simple reply.

She had had a hard time from a group of girls before and -- despite the sick feeling in her stomach -- Erin was hoping she could put it behind her.

She didn't make it past mid-term break.

Last Saturday, after another emotionally draining week, the broken teenager took her own life at her home in Ballybofey, Co Donegal.

Her distraught mother Lorraine discovered her body and frantically tried to save her but emergency services pronounced her dead at the scene.

The online taunts had been unrelenting.

"You're one of the ugliest bitches I've ever seen, you Scottish fucker," wrote one anonymous user to Ask.fm, the social networking site she and her friends were members of -- only a week before her death."

"You call yourself thin? Well you're not holding in the flab with smaller trousers."

"Why are you so ugly?" another posted with simple, pointless viciousness.

Months before, Erin had taken up boxing, perhaps in an attempt to provide some form of self-defence against her tormentors.

It was poignant that a boxing bag was hung in the corner of the room in which she accessed her computer and viewed the nasty messages.

"You're meant to do boxing? Well I'll tell you this, hunny, You can't fight for shite, X battered you and you know it. Lol," came yet another anonymous jibe.

Several weeks ago, on one of the darker days, Erin went to a local shop for her school lunch break, where the other girls were also present.

A number of girls were disciplined about their behaviour following the incident and their parents were informed.

In online postings to Erin's social-networking site, an anonymous individual goaded afterwards: "Who has the bald patch on their head? YOU."

In Erin's final reply to her tormentors, she said: "Right enough is enough. Do you think you're funny bullying me ... you probably will think it was funny when I fucking put a rope around my neck because of you. Leave it now you had your fucking fun -- get over it."

Sunday Independent

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