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VEC defends handling of 'concerns' for Erin's safety

THE Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) in Donegal has defended how it handled all issues before Erin Gallagher's death after a parent was alleged to have raised concerns that she could take her life.

Donegal mayor Frank McBrearty -- a member of the board of management at Finn Valley College in Stranorlar -- said a father of a girl who knew Erin (13) contacted the VEC-run school and social services eight weeks ago to express his concerns about the deceased teenager.

Mr McBrearty claimed the parent reported his fears that Erin may take her own life.

Mr McBrearty said a full and comprehensive investigation into all allegations needed to be conducted and added that he is currently considering his position on the board.

In response, the head of Donegal VEC Shaun Purcell said the management of Finn Valley College acted at all times with regard to the welfare of its students.

Mr Purcell said it was a very challenging time for the students, parents and staff.

"We acknowledge that, in the circumstances, emotions are very raw and everyone will be looking for answers," he said.

"Donegal VEC wishes to state that the safety and welfare of its students are at the core of its policies and procedures."

He said the VEC had discussed the issues surrounding the events leading up to Erin's untimely death.

"Donegal VEC wishes to confirm that the management and staff of Finn Valley College acted at all times with regard to the welfare of the students," Mr Purcell said.

"The committee also wishes to acknowledge the care with which the staff and co-operating agencies carried out their duties following this tragic event."

Grieve

"It is important that the school and community be allowed time to grieve."

He added: "Finn Valley College will continue to provide high-quality education in a caring and positive environment."

The HSE has not responded to claims staff were made aware of the parent's fears for Erin.

Last night, the HSE said it "is continuing to support those affected by this tragedy and are providing a wide range of advice and services to the family, school and wider community but the HSE cannot comment on any individual person".

Irish Independent