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Silence, then came the terrible sound of crying and wailing

THE terrible crying and wailing pierced the air outside the church.

Yet another funeral for a child, a 13-year-old girl driven by her tormentors to commit that awful, final, irreversible act.

Erin Gallagher took her own life in Co Donegal after being bullied online. Six weeks ago, 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley did the same thing in Co Leitrim.

The similarities between Erin and Ciara don't end there. At the Leitrim teenager's funeral, mourners had heard about her joy of life, her GAA exploits and her love of karate.

Yesterday, mourners heard about Erin's love for MacCumhaill's GAA club and her membership of the Twin Towns boxing club.

Both girls' families had local connections, and both moved to Ireland for a better life.

The painful sobs of the children in the front rows of St Mary's in Stranorlar yesterday could clearly be heard at the back.

The heartbreaking mood was lifted, briefly, only by the applause which followed a poem bravely read by Joseph, a friend of Erin's.

The last stanza went: "Believing in this is difficult; somehow we must still try; the saddest word mankind will know will always be goodbye; so when a child departs we who are left behind; must remember God loves children and angels are hard to find."

The children listened intently to the homily delivered by Fr John Joe Duffy.

A few nodded as he asked them to close their accounts on ask.fm.

Coffin

As the cortege left St Mary's, gardai stopped the traffic in the streets of twin towns Ballybofey and Stranorlar which stand side by side, separated by the river Finn.

Just a few weeks ago those same streets were filled with the laughter of children when the Donegal GAA players stood for hours on end at MacCumhaill Park signing autographs ahead of the All-Ireland at Croke Park. Yesterday, the traffic was halted for a different reason.

Erin's mother, Lorraine, and sister, Shannon (15), walked on to the road behind the hearse, holding each other in one of those heartbreaking clasps that are seen only at funerals.

Moments earlier, a girl aged only 12 or 13 was pulled into the arms of a friend, a few inches taller but probably no older, then they laid their hands on the hearse.

Two sobbing teenagers, just children, little girls, reached out as the white coffin bearing the body of their friend was placed inside the vehicle.

And then that terrible crying and wailing began again.

Irish Independent