Society failed Erin, funeral told
Young people who are bullied have been urged to speak about their problems at the funeral today of Donegal teenager Erin Gallagher.
Fr John Joe Duffy told mourners, who included Ms Gallagher’s classmates, that support was available for young people in crisis but he also questioned whether the authorities had done enough to tackle cyber-bullying. “We are only here today because society has failed Erin Gallagher, has failed a 13-year-old child,” he said.
Ms Gallagher, a pupil at Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, was found dead at her home in nearby Ballybofey on Saturday evening.
Gardaí are investigating the alleged bullying of the teenager, including comments posted on a social networking website ask.fm.
Fr Duffy said he was making the “bold proposal” of appealing to young people to stop accessing this other such social networking sites to try to avoid a similar tragedy.
"When we see the consequences of what such discussions can do to some people, I am asking you to seriously think about going home today and to delete ask.fm and never agree to frequent that site or any other sites…Is there any regulation of social media pages? There is not. Authorities may hide behind technical and other difficulties but these sites can be regulated and they must."
“Unfortunately today is not the first tragedy we see in our country but let it be the last… But it can only be the last if we face the reality of what we need to stand up to as a society."
“I ask parents to familiarise yourselves with these sites, to familiarise yourselves with the safeguards and to act in the way that is most necessary to help protect your children."
“As a country, we are very good at after care – after the fact but we fail miserably on prevention. We have seen the excellent support of these last few days from professional services but let all of us take a step backwards. Let us go back to last week. What levels of support were available and where were they before this tragic event?"
"Have we the resources and personnel necessary to man the frontline with regard to prevention? Have we the national policies in place? Have we the guidelines for intervention and prevention to avoid a terrible and unnecessary tragedy like this in the future?"
"Is it known, is it clear who do we turn to if we see a similar situation develop? I am challenging those today who are charged with the care of children to assess whether their assessments, systems and responsiveness are fit for purpose."
"Those charged with the care of children must reflect on this awful tragedy. Currently there is much debate about children’s rights in this country and that is so very important but have we the supports that are so necessary?"
"Have we as a society failed to prioritise the needs of parents and children at a time when everything is cut back, when services are cut back? Have we employed the necessary social workers, counsellors, psychologists so the basic services are available on the ground at the front line where it most needed, when it most needed?"
"I am asking all agencies in Ireland responsible for the care of children to finally come together and formulate a comprehensive policy of prevention and support for helping individuals so this day will never have to dawn on another parent."
"That is the challenge we as a society now face. We are only here today because society has failed Erin Gallagher, has failed a 13-year-old child."
Erin is survived by her mother Lorraine, her sister Shannon, brother Sean James and a wide circle of relatives and friends.