Gardaí investigate claims bullying led to girl's death


GARDAÍ ARE to investigate claims that a 13-year-old girl was bullied online and physically attacked in the period leading up to her taking her own life on Saturday.

Erin Gallagher was found dead in the family home at the Silverwood estate, Donegal Road, Ballybofey, Co Donegal, on Saturday.

Her mother Laura returned to the house and found her. While medical assistance was summoned and arrived almost immediately, Erin was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gardaí have been working on the case over the weekend and as well as drawing up a report for an inquest, sources said the investigating team would also examine allegations that Erin was bullied online in the period leading to her death.

She warned friends on a social networking site she was going to kill herself just 24 hours before she was found dead.

Erin alleged in one post on ask.fmthat she had been bullied in an online discussion forum. Her post suggested a campaign of verbal and online bullying directed at her.

The teenager was a second-year pupil at Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, Co Donegal.

Her mother and older sister Shannon, a fourth-year pupil at the same secondary school, were being comforted at their home last night. The deceased girl also had a four-year-old brother whom she was babysitting on Saturday when she took her life.

Friends of the schoolgirl have reacted with disbelief to her death. A Facebook page called RIP Erin Gallagher has been inundated with comments since it was set up on Saturday evening.

By yesterday evening more than 4,000 people had “liked” the page.

Many of Erin’s friends left messages of support and sympathy on the page. Many referred to the allegations of bullying.

Erin’s death comes just weeks after the death of another teenager in nearby Co Leitrim. Ciara Pugsley took her life after she was bullied online.

Seán Purcell, chief executive of the Donegal Vocational Education Committee, said their thoughts were with Erin’s family and the pupils and staff at Finn Valley College. He promised the necessary support structures would be put in place to deal with the situation.

Former government minister Jim McDaid spoke of his “absolute shock” after attending the scene as the doctor on call when Erin’s body was found by her mother.

“You see some things in this job and I have dealt with some very sad cases . . . But this was just a beautiful wee girl, a child. Of all the experiences in life, this must be the worst I have seen,” he said.

Dr McDaid said that when Erin’s mother returned to the family home after being out she found her daughter dead on the stairs and her four-year-old son wandering around.

“Another sister [Shannon] who is a bit older than Erin was at a friend’s house at the time. So she had to be contacted and told that her wee sister was dead. It is just tragic, it is awful,” said Dr McDaid.

He said Erin’s mother was inconsolable and completely shocked by what had happened.

“She was just stunned that her wee girl was dead. I went back to see her later again, she just couldn’t believe what had happened to her wee girl.”

Dr McDaid said he rushed to the Gallagher family home when the alarm was raised. He believed the emergency call was made at the same time Erin was discovered.

“I got there straight away.”

He was aware of the strong suggestions that Erin was subjected to harassment and bullying online, specifically on the ask.fmsite, in the 24 hours before her death and in the period leading up to it.

He was also aware of suggestions that she had been physically attacked.

“I really hope the gardaí investigate this and in as much as they can [investigate] the people who were bullying her,” he said.

If you are affected by bullying contact the Samaritans on 1850-609090 or view the Barnardo’s anti-bullying programme: on