Friday 20 April 2018

teen tragedies anti-bullying campaign begins

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. This was a phrase we heard all year, from parents, priests and grieving friends.

It was said with particular poignancy late in the year, in Donegal, where a double suicide left the community around Stranorlar numbed with grief.

First, schoolgirl Erin Gallagher (13) took her own life on October 28 after being tormented at school and online. Her mother revealed that the last text message her daughter had received read simply "slut".

"Something has to be done about bullying, about internet bullying and about teenage suicide," said Lorraine Gallagher.

Just weeks later, on December 13, Erin's sister Shannon (15) also committed suicide. Cyber bullying was not believed to be a factor in Shannon's death – it appears she simply could not bear to be without her sister.

But it was a factor in the death of Ciara Pugsley (15), who took her own life on September 19.

The ordeal of Leitrim girl Ciara is strikingly similar to that of Erin Gallagher. Ciara, who hanged herself in woods near her home, had been bullied via messages posted on a website.

Some posters said she was claiming to be depressed just to get attention, while others accused her of being fat and of having no respect for herself.

Meanwhile, Kilcock schoolgirl Lara Burns took her own life in stables next to her home at Grange, Newtown, Co Kildare a month later.

Online posts following her death suggest that she had been bullied, but the gardai have not received any complaints about the matter.

The tragedies prompted the Irish Independent to set up its Stop Cyber Bullying campaign, which has been backed by parents, teachers and celebrities such as Ryan Tubridy.

On December 7, a spokesperson for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced that €500,000 would be set aside in 2013 to tackle to issue.

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