Friday 15 November 2019

Shannon's mother tells of devastation at losing two daughters in seven weeks

Erin Gallagher's mother Lorraine and sister Shannon
Erin Gallagher: death has stunned community
The funeral of Erin Gallagher at St. Mary's Church, Stranorlar, Co. Donegal.
Pupils comfort each other outside Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, Co Donegal

Greg Harkin

A DEVASTATED mother who lost a second daughter to suicide has spoken of the tragic loss of the "lights of our lives".

Shannon Gallagher -- who would have been 16 on Christmas Day -- was found dead at a house in Castlefin, Co Donegal, late on Wednesday night.

Her 13-year-old sister Erin took her own life in October after being systematically taunted on the website

The children's distraught mother Lorraine was being comforted at a wake at the family home in Ballybofey last night.

"Erin and Shannon were the lights of our lives," the 36-year-old said.

"They were as close as any two sisters could be.

"We are just devastated by what has happened and we just can't say any more. We are all just numb.

"We are lost for words to describe how beautiful they were and what they meant to us.

"We just cannot understand what has happened or why it has happened. There are no answers. We just want time to grieve and to give Shannon a proper burial.

"We are asking people including the media to respect our privacy and allow us time to bury Shannon with respect and dignity."

The family's solicitor Patsy Gallagher reiterated the family's plea for privacy at this time.

"I appreciate there will be a level of media interest but I would appeal to the media to respect the family's privacy at this time," he said.

The teenagers' granddad James choked back tears as he told the Irish Independent: "I've spoken to Lorraine and she is devastated beyond words.

"It's really hard to take in and we are just trying to get our heads around it."

He is due to arrive home from Scotland this morning to help comfort his daughter.

"She was talking on Facebook with friends last night. She had been wrapping Christmas presents and was saying she had been missing her wee sister," he said.

"We are now preparing for another funeral this Saturday and I just don't know what to say. Lorraine was told about it on Wednesday night. It's just awful." Both girls had been students at Finn Valley College in Stranorlar.

Yesterday special prayers were led by local curate Father John Joe Duffy as the HSE activated an emergency response plan for the second time in seven weeks.

"The HSE extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased," said a spokeswoman.

"Currently, the HSE is liaising with the family in relation to this incident and all supports are being made available to provide assistance at this difficult time."

Outside the school, parents were left stunned by Shannon's death. "Erin's death was bad enough but now this... it's heartbreaking for everyone in the school," said the mother of one student.

The chief executive of Donegal VEC, Shaun Purcell, said it was "an extremely difficult time for all concerned".

He added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Shannon's family, school and community at this sad time.

"The critical-incident team is in place in the school as a support for students and staff."

Shannon had been staying at a house in Castlefin, not far from the graveyard where Erin had been laid to rest on October 31.

It is understood adults in the house had checked on her just a few minutes before she was found dead at 10.30 on Wednesday night.

She had spoken about missing her sister and had been dreading Christmas without her.


The teenager had written notes every day on Erin's Facebook page.

One read: "Morning, beautiful. Everywhere I look I see that cute smile that I adored. Your wee laugh plays over and over again in my head.

"Still can't come to terms with that I won't see or hear that again. I don't believe you're dead yet. I even found myself ringing you last night and then it really hit... sleep tight darling." Her sister Erin had been tormented by online bullies.

Shannon, friends said, had been "the perfect big sister" in trying to help her through the ordeal and was left distraught at her sister's death.

She will be buried alongside her sister after 11am Requiem Mass in Ballybofey tomorrow.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News