Wednesday 19 June 2019

Shocking death of Karen Buckley is every parent's worst nightmare

When the body of Karen Buckley was discovered at High Craighton Farm outside Glasgow last week, the gruesome find sent shockwaves across Scotland and to every corner of these shores.

From church services and candlelit vigils, to the haunting sound of a lone piper in George Square in Glasgow, the public's response and support for the Mourneabbey family has been both dignified and poignant.

The discovery followed a massive police search over four days as the authorities called on the public for assistance. The response was notable for the role played by social media, with reports on the progress of the investigation displayed regularly, while pleas from the family were posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Images of Karen leaving the Sanctuary Nightclub in Glasgow and her last walk along Dumbarton Road were distributed widely, her friends posted pictures of the 24-year-old in the hope that there had been sightings. Posts from Karen's best friend Julie Malone were retweeted and reached over 50,000 Facebook users.

Sadly, on Thursday morning every parent's worst nightmare became a reality for Marion and John Buckley as their daughter's remains were found on a farm, sadly an ironic twist on the rural background that she once came from.

The drive to support the grief-stricken family began in earnest and by Sunday evening a GoFundMe page had raised 10 times the amount it had first sought. It was part of an online drive organised by Karen's classmates at UL and the €50,000 raised will be used to cover the family's expenses, as well as to support the running of their County Cork farm. Also, by Sunday evening, 25,000 people had 'liked' a Facebook page titled 'RIP Karen Buckley' leaving verses, pictures and symbols of hope, while on Twitter the hashtags trending included #a candleforkaren

There are many Irish studying and working in Glasgow, indeed the Scottish authorities treated Karen like one of their own. But it could be any city and any family's child. Karen was an intelligent young woman, an experienced traveller and cautious to boot, which prompted her friends to contact police as soon as she went missing - they didn't wait until morning.

And that's why the entire sorry episode has hit home with so many families across Ireland. Many parents will be worried and a call to offspring on far off shores, just to warn of potential dangers, would not go amiss. Many will in fact make that call through social media, while Karen's story will also be widely read on their travels. The online forum may at times over-dramatise issues but last week its ability to inform was put into sharp focus.

It may be an opportune time too to warn teenagers and young adults about exactly what they post online. Investigations have shown just how much can be learned about individuals simply from social media and it's a frightening prospect, from daily routines to bank accounts and much more.

Social media has so many benefits and is a powerful tool in all aspects of life, yet it needs to be treated with care at all times. If there is a positive, it's that the outpouring of support on the Internet may just have helped a grieving family come to terms, in some small way, with the awful loss of an innocent young life.