Sunday 22 April 2018

Facebook trolls hijack tribute page to fire death teenager Ellen Finnegan

Deborah McAleese

Facebook has been forced to shut down a tribute page to tragic teenager Ellen Finnegan after it was targeted by vile internet trolls.

The social media giant was inundated with complaints from friends of the teenager and police when a Facebook page set up in her memory was defaced with disgusting comments.

Facebook promptly deleted the link, but Ellen's devastated friends and family have been left "deeply distressed" by the "grotesque defacing" of the tribute page.

Ellen (19) died in a house fire in the early hours of last Saturday - the third anniversary of her mother Nicola's death from cancer.

The student was in an upstairs bedroom of the flat she shared with father Bartley, above his butcher's shop in the town, when the blaze broke out.

Her heartbroken friends set up the page on Facebook for anyone who knew Ellen to share their memories of her. But on Thursday night the page was attacked by online trolls who posted "sick and disgusting" comments.

It is understood those behind the hack are 'professional' trolls from overseas who seek out pages to attack grieving families with inappropriate messages.

"I just hope that Ellen's relatives did not see any of those messages. The whole family are just devastated by her death," said Castlewellan Sinn Fein councillor Stephen Burns.

Hard to comprehend how sick trolls could mock tragic teen

"The posts were just absolutely disgusting. They were sick and vile and grossly offensive."

He added: "Facebook was inundated with requests to take it down. The police were contacted about it too and they also contacted Facebook.

"The whole community has been left heartbroken by Ellen's death.

"Her father has been left on his own. He has lost his only daughter. I have never attended a funeral as sad as Ellen's. It has all been just horrific. You have to wonder about the mentality of someone who will search through the internet to find grieving families to attack."

Newry and Mourne MLA John McCallister described the online attack as a "grotesque defacing of a tribute page".

"Ellen Finnegan was a beautiful young woman who was clearly very much loved by everyone who knew her. That someone would want to prey on her family and friends' grief is just appalling," said Mr McCallister.

"This was just downright offensive and deeply hurtful. But whoever was behind this cannot destroy the wonderful memories that Ellen's friends and family have of her."

Castlewellan was brought to a standstill on Tuesday for Ellen's funeral. Fr Sean Cahill told mourners that her life was cut tragically short when she had her best years ahead of her.

"We think: 'Ellen could not have been ready; she was too young'," he said.

"Ellen had not time to find her way in life, even if university places were opening up for her; no time to plan the bright career she might have embarked on - given her talents and personality - in public relations, social services, management, communications. Careers opening up, beckoning her, but suddenly closed so dramatically."

The priest said that some comfort could be taken by her father Bartley from the last words she spoke to him.

"I know how Bartley cherishes the last conversation he had with his beautiful daughter, whom he and Nicola loved and treasured so much," he said.

"I believe it is a special grace for you, Bartley, to be able to cherish that last message to you.

"She, Ellen wished you a good holiday - on your planned skiing trip - and added: 'I love you, Daddy... Daddy, I love you'."

Belfast Telegraph

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