Tributes to Kerry teenager Donal Walsh

Coroner says his appeals would prevent suicide ’far into the future’

Kerry teenager Donal Walsh, who died last night after a battle with cancer. He was known for campaigning against suicide among young people. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

Kerry teenager Donal Walsh, who died last night after a battle with cancer. He was known for campaigning against suicide among young people. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

Tue, May 14, 2013, 07:29

Tributes have been pouring in on the death of teenager Donal Walsh who asked those taking their own lives to think twice .

The sixteen year old Tralee rugby enthusiast, who had terminal cancer, died at his home in Blennerville Tralee on Sunday night surrounded by his family.

The Kerry South Coroner Terrence Casey said he believed Donal’s honesty had had more effect on suicide prevention than all the politicians put together.

Mr Casey had, after a series of suicide findings at the last sitting of his court, appealed to young people in Kerry where suicides have hit record levels to heed his words

“I believe his appeals are already having an impact and will help prevent suicide far into he future, as long as he is remembered,’’ Mr Casey said. ’What he has done is unbelievable for a lad of his age.

‘”I offer my deepest condolences to his family. While he is a terrible loss to his own family, he is also a great loss to the human race,” he said.

The boy’s appeal to those taking their own lives to think twice and his account of having “climbed God’s mountains” came to light over a month ago after his teacher at CBS The Green nominated him for a local hero award.

Ruairí O’Rahilly, the teacher at Tralee CBS (The Green) who nominated him for a local hero award in Kerry, said he was humbled to have known an amazing person who was admired by the entire school. ‘’He was my hero,’’ Mr O’Rahilly said.

Jay Galvin, Tralee Rugby Club’s director of rugby, said members were “heart-broken and stunned’’, even though they knew Donal’s life was coming to an end. Donal had hoped to play for Tralee and for Munster but his cancer diagnoses meant he lost a knee. However that did not stop his contribution to the club. He enthusiastically took up coaching and refereeing, Mr Galvin said.

“Everyone is so, so sad today. But the impact he has made and his legacy are something phenomenal, despite his short years. I was with him during week and there was no complaint, no why me? He fought his illness so bravely and everyone he met was touched by him.’’

Mr Galvin said he had “taken the lid off the topic of suicide’’ and words could not describe the impact he had made.

“His faith sustained him. He had great belief in Our Lady. He had a saintly way about him and there was a goodness in him. Everyone got something very positive from him,’’ Mr Galvin also said.

Fr Francis Nolan, St John’s Parish, Tralee, said Donal was inspirational in the way he embraced his illness. ‘”He was no way bitter about it and could even be humorous in some ways about it,’’ Fr Nolan said.

The Minister of State for Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch who had been in contact with him said his “generosity of spirit” had been inspirational.

The teenager’s cancer was first diagnosed in his knee when he was twelve and beaten back a number of times had become inoperable and he was told this last November. During his battle he spent months in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and his experience of its Spartan conditions urged him to raise money for the hospital. He raised over €50,000 for it.

However it was his appeal against suicide which was not meant to be published until after his death which brought him to national prominence. Two weeks ago circuit court judge Pauline Codd described him as “a beacon of light” after he dedicated a personal injury award to the education of his sister after he was knocked off his new bike last September.

The rugby player Paul O’Connell had become friendly with him and attributed Munster’s victory over Harlequins to his inspiration. He had thousands following him on Twitter.

The Walsh family home in Blennerville, outside Tralee, was private today as extended family members and close friends comforted his parents Fionnbar and Elma and sister Jema.

Remains will repose in the family home from 2pm to 8pm Tuesday and requiem Mass will be celebrated at 12 noon on Wednesday in St John’s Church, Tralee, with burial afterwards in Rath Cemetery, Tralee.

Mourners are being asked to make donations in lieu of flowers to the palliative care unit, at Kerry General Hospital, Tralee, and Care 4 Kids.