Donal Walsh’s parents speak about their hopes for his legacy
The parents of the late Donal Walsh have opened up about the legacy their son wanted them to carry forward.
Speaking to Ireland AM’s Sinead Desmond in their Blennerville, Co Kerry, home, Fionnbar praises his son for a making a difference.
“You throw a stone into a pond and there’s a ripple effect, this boy threw a rock into an ocean and it spread across the globe” he said.
Elma tells the TV3 interview that she regularly goes to her son’s grave, and urges him to keep his promise.
“I go to the grave all the time, I give out to him and tell him to mind us. He promised before he died that he’d look after us all.”
There were two main causes close to the 16-year-old’s heart, his mother said, and one of these was hospital facilities for teenagers.
“When you go into hospitals and into the children’s wards, it’s up to 18 years old so it’s all Disney and Winnie the Pooh.
“ There isn’t a lot there for teenagers, especially in hospices”, she explained.
“Donal would be more into watching Cheltenham and putting a few bets on the races, through his uncles of course” she added.
His second message, about teen suicide, is the one which proved the most inspiring to the nation.
His appearance on the Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor touched a nerve for so many people.
“One of the things Donal did was he opened up the conversation, which is half the battle, and he just left it out there,” his father Fionnbar told Sinead Desmond.
“He reconciled an awful lot of people who were survivors of incidences of suicide by what he said.
“People were able to let go of the mess, that it wasn’t their mess, it was the mess that was left behind.”
Donal’s influence and positive message provide comfort to his parents as they continue to grieve his loss.
“He was on television for 19 minutes, and the effect it had on people was phenomenal.” Elma added.
Despite Donal’s illness being an emotionally draining time, his parents say they still have happy memories from the months before his death.
His father recalled the night of his RTE apperaance, when Donal was determined to walk on to the set despite being in severe pain.
“He’d spent most of the day in the wheelchair, it was his first full day pretty much in the wheelchair.
“He was asked if he wanted to walk on or be brought on, but he was determined to walk”, Fionnbar said.
Donal also refused to celebrate Christmas early, despite doctors warning he wasn’t expected to make it through December.
His parents made the occasion extra memorable for him, by arranging to have Santa Claus call to the house on Christmas Eve.
“Donal and all his friends had to sit on Santy’s lap and sing Christmas Carols,” Elma recalls.
The teenager also bought special, personal gifts for his family on what would be his last Christmas.
He bought his mother a silver locket, which she guards preciously.
Fionnbar’s voice cracked as he told the Ireland AM presenter that Donal bought him a watch with the words ‘From your loving son, Donal’ engraved.
His mother also revealed a side to Donal the public didn’t get to see – that he enjoyed partying.
“He loved his parties, he had three or four house parties here.
“He loved going to the discos, even though he was underage he got the false ID and snuck in there,” she recalled.
The 16-year-old wasn’t afraid of death, according to his parents, and they even discussed funeral arrangements.
“He did give us an idea of what he wanted at the funeral, he chose three songs, Raglan Road, Sail Away and Go Lassie Go.
“He was at peace for a few months before his passing. He was at peace in the end, but he was never afraid of dying,” Elma says.
The Walsh family are currently setting up a foundation in Donal’s name, to raise funds to improve facilities for teenagers in hospitals.
This September, Fionnbar is involved in the Cross Rugby Legends Cycle in aid of Cancer research. Donal took part last year and his father will now lead the cycle on Donal’s bike.
All details are available at www.crossdonalsmountain.com
Tune in to TV3’s Ireland AM on Monday from 8am to watch interview in full