Sunday 18 March 2018

Dad of tragic Ciara bullied online warns other parents

Ciara Pugsley (15) who committed suicide 12 days ago. Her father Jonathan has spoken out about how she suffered online bullying and he wants to bring the dangers of social networking sites to light
Ciara's father Jonathan Pugsley at the Herbert Park hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin last night
Ciara Pugsley

Greg Harkin

THE father of a beautiful teenage schoolgirl who took her own life after being bullied online today warns other parents of the dangers of social media.

Ciara Pugsley (15), who successfully represented her local GAA team, took her own life 12 days ago in a tragedy of appalling proportions.

Detectives are investigating claims she was bullied on the website.

Her dad Jonathan spoke to this newspaper in order to alert other parents of the dangers to their children online.

"I'm reminded of Ciara every single minute of the day, I'm always doing something that reminds me of her," said the 46-year-old engineer.

"Ciara was a special girl. She was outgoing and involved in so many clubs. She loved horse-riding, GAA and everything else that was going on.

"She wasn't the girl who sat in the corner and was quiet. She was at the centre of everything and that's why the local community in Leitrim is so upset because so many people knew her," said Mr Pugsley.

Mr Pugsley, from Somerset, moved with his Irish-born wife Aggie and their three children to Dromahair, Co Leitrim, 12 years ago. "My wife is Irish and wanted to come home and Leitrim was perfect. The country living and the country schools and all the activities -- you couldn't have asked for a better place.

She was a popular student at St Clare's Comprehensive and had represented Leitrim Ladies

Gaelic football team at under-14 level, reaching the junior all-Ireland final last year.

"I had no idea until 12 days ago that Ciara was being bullied. There were no signs of it," said Mr Pugsley.

"Of course when I was at school we didn't have the internet and any arguments there were settled there. But nowadays it continues online and on into the evening and right through until 2 o'clock at night.

"I have heard of Bebo and Facebook like every other parent but I had never heard of this site, where bullies can be completely anonymous," he said.

Mr Pugsley described the site -- based in Latvia -- as "extremely sinister". He said he didn't expect to be able to campaign for its closure because "another would just pop up anyway".

"If I can, I want to help educate people about what these sites are and what they can do to young people."

The grieving father said he had been taken aback by some of the comments he had read about his daughter online before and after her death.

"It is very scary," he said, "and very sinister and you wonder about these people (making comments). But if I can help to educate people about being safe online then I will."

Last night he appeared on RTE's 'Frontline' TV programme to help that process.

He said his other daughter Abigail (20) and son Daniel (18) were "utterly devastated" by Ciara's death.

"Daniel has taken it badly because he had just started to take Ciara out to underage discos and introduce her to his friends," said Jonathan. "He was particularly close to her."

Meanwhile, the rate of male suicide has dropped slightly but it remains relatively constant for women, a new report revealed yesterday.


However, suicide is still significantly more likely among males than females, the report of the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention said.

Male suicide steadily increased from 8.4 per 100,000 in 1980, to 23.5 in 1998, falling to 20.0 in 2009.

The suicide rate is highest for young males aged between 20 and 24 and for females aged between 50 and 54.

There were 552 deaths by suicide in 2009, representing a rate of 12.4 deaths per 100,000 population.

Compared to other European standards, Ireland has the sixth lowest rate of death by suicide, with a reported rate of 10.3 per 100,000, compared with the lowest rate of 3.9 in Greece and the highest of 34 in Lithuania.

Irish Independent

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