Girl dies after bullying claim


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 dead. While medical assistance was called for and arrived almost immediately Erin was pronounced dead at the scene and may have died up to two hours before she was found.

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 will also examine allegations that Erin was bullied online in the period leading up to hear 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 that 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 Laura and older sister Shannon, a fourth-year pupil at the same secondary school, were being comforted at their home this evening. The dead girl also had a 4-year-old brother whom she was babysitting on Saturday when she took her own 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.

Sean Purcell, the 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 and Dáil Deputy, Dr 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”.

Dr McDaid, who was on duty for the NoWDOC doctor call-out service on Saturday, said when Erin’s mother Laura returned to the family home after being out she found her daughter dead on the stairs and her 4-year-old son wandering around.

“She must have been so desperate that she didn’t take that (the presence of her brother) into consideration,” said a clearly shocked and upset Dr McDaid.

“Then 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.” Dr McDaid said Erin’s mother Laura 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 dead.

“I got there straight away. I thought she had been dead for two hours at that stage.” He was aware of the strong suggestions that Erin was subjected to harassment and bullying online, specifically on the site, 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.