Big crowd expected at funeral of Donegal girl

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

A HUGE number of mourners are expected at the funeral of schoolgirl Erin Gallagher (13) in Co Donegal this morning, just four days after she took her own life after being targeted for months in a campaign of bullying and intimidation.

It has emerged that Erin had previously tried to take her own life in recent weeks but had survived and appeared to be recovering.

While her mother Lorraine (36) said the campaign against her daughter had worsened since she returned to school after the summer break, she had recently been seeing a psychologist for help with her distress.

“They bullied her on Facebook, at school, everywhere,” Ms Gallagher told The Irish Times.

She added that despite the bullying, in recent weeks Erin seemed to have improved. Ms Gallagher, who is originally from Scotland, said she had shared a takeaway meal with her daughter and they had watched a video together just hours before she took her own life.

While she seemed in good spirits at that stage, when Ms Gallagher left Erin to babysit her four-year-old brother Seán James at the family home on the Silverwood estate in Ballybofey for a period on Saturday, Erin took her own life.

Gardaí are investigating her death in order to prepare a file for a coroner’s inquest.

However, that inquiry has been broadened in an effort to establish the details of a bullying campaign, much of it online, against Erin since the summer and in the period leading up to her death.

If it was determined that other children had bullied her in a sustained way they could face a range of harassment or threatening behaviour-based criminal charges.

Yesterday two teenagers went to speak about the case to local gardaí in the company of their parents and to seek advice around their own security as tensions escalate in the community.

However, sources stressed there had been no arrests and that the Garda inquiry was in its infancy, adding it had not been established if any criminal offences had been committed.

Erin’s funeral is to take place at 11am today at St Mary’s Church in Stranorlar. The teenager will be buried after the Mass at Castlefin Cemetery.

A Facebook page called “RIP Erin Gallagher”, set up on Saturday last, had more than 6,500 “friends” last night.

Thousands of people are expected to attend a special walk next month in memory of Erin and against bullying. The Erin Gallagher Memorial Walk has been arranged by her friends for November 8th – the day on which Erin would have celebrated her 14th birthday.

Lord Mayor of Donegal Frank McBrearty yesterday called for legislation to deal with cyber-bullying in the wake of this and other recent suicides. “This is a matter of the utmost seriousness and we cannot allow another teenager to take their lives because of cyber-bullying,” he said.

“It is a modern-day epidemic and it needs to be addressed. Legislation needs to be set in place to ensure that those who commit cyber-bullying are held to account,” he added.