Sunday 15 September 2019

Priest: ‘Make tragic Erin (13) last teen lost to online bullying’

The funeral of Erin Gallagher at St. Mary's Church, Stranorlar, Co. Donegal.
Erin Gallagher: death has stunned community

Greg Harkin in Stranorlar

THE priest at the funeral of Erin Gallagher today told mourners that the Government must take steps to regulate social media websites to prevent more suicides.

The 13-year-old died by suicide on Saturday after being bullied online.

Erin’s white coffin arrived at the church in Stranorlar in Donegal just before 11am. A wreath in white flowers spelling ‘Angel’ lay alongside it.

Her mother Lorraine, sister Shannon and brother Sean James followed the coffin inside St Mary’s Church.

They heard Father John Joe Duffy say that society had failed Erin but authorities needed to do something about it.

“Let this be a day for change in our society so that good will be the ultimate end from this terrible suffering,” the curate told mourners.

“Is there any regulation of social media pages? There is not. The authorities may hide behind technical and other difficulties but these sites can be regulated and they must be regulated.

“This is not the first tragedy, but let it be the last - but it can only be the last when we face the reality that we are not standing up to this as a society.”

He said the country was good at dealing with events “after the fact.”

With local TD and junior Government minister Dinny McGinley in the congregation, Father Duffy questioned if enough resources are available to prevent future suicides.

He said he didn’t want to take away from the excellent work done after Erin’s death.

“Do we have the resources available to man the front line in terms of prevention,” he asked.

“Have we national policies in place? Have we the guidelines for prevention to avoid this in the future?

“Is it known and is it clear who we turn to if we see a similar situation develop?

“I am challenging those who are charged with the care of children to assess whether their assessements and responses are fit for purpose.”

He said the Government needed national policies to prevent suicides and to tackle bullying, particularly online.

“I am asking all agencies and arms of the State who are responsible for the care of children to finally come together and formulate a comprehensive policy of prevention and support; of helping individuals so that this day will never have to dawn on another parent or family in this country again.

“This is the challenge we as a society now face. We are only here today because society has failed Erin Gallagher.”

A friend of the teenager then broke down crying as he tried to read a poem to the congregation, which was followed by a round of applause.

After the Mass local schoolchildren formed a guard of honour, some of them releasing pink balloons as the hearse made its way to a cemetery in Castlefin for a private burial.

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