Erin Gallagher inquest told of bullying in school and online

Mother tells coroner she and 13-year-old were joking together hours before she took her life

The mother of Erin Gallagher (pictured), a bullied Co Donegal teenager who took her own life, has told an inquest of how they were chatting and joking together just hours before she died.

The mother of Erin Gallagher (pictured), a bullied Co Donegal teenager who took her own life, has told an inquest of how they were chatting and joking together just hours before she died.

 

The mother of a bullied Co Donegal teenager who took her own life has told an inquest of how they were chatting and joking together just hours before she died.

Lorraine Gallagher found her daughter Erin (13) dead at the family home in Ballybofey on October 27th, 2012. Erin’s sister, Shannon (15), took her life just weeks later.

The inquest heard concerns that Erin was being bullied online and in school and had been engaging with the HSE’s mental health services.

In a deposition, Ms Gallagher told the inquest at the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny that Erin and her younger brother Seán James had visited her in work at around 2pm on the day.

Erin asked her mother if they could get broadband in their home but Ms Gallagher said it would have to wait until the following Monday.

Ms Gallagher said both Erin and Seán James were in good form at the time, leaving at about 3pm. She returned home from work at 6pm and found the house in darkness and Seán James playing on the floor.

The deposition, read out by Garda Supt David Kelly, said that Ms Gallagher asked Erin what she was doing before realising she was hanging. She tried to help her daughter before running out into the street to alert neighbours.

Neighbours Kevin McGlinchey and Dan Deery told the inquests of their efforts to revive Erin.

Phone

Detective Garda Tom Ward, who also attended the scene, told the inquest Erin’s phone was taken as part of the investigation. It showed she had joined the AskFM social media site on June 25th, 2012, and posted 258 messages.

A number of computer IP addresses were obtained from the account and several people were interviewed. The findings of these interviews were passed on to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who decided no prosecution would be brought against any person.

Alan Thompson, now principal of Finn Valley College where Erin was a pupil, told the inquest of incidents in which Erin had been involved, including allegations that she was being bullied online and in school.

He said that she had been “on the radar” since the beginning of the school year and that students were made aware of a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies in the school.

Mr Thompson said that since 2013, new national guidelines on bullying had been put in place which were being followed by the school.

Bullying

Don Dwyer, child and adolescent psychologist with the mental health services of the HSE, confirmed that Erin had been in his care.

He said Erin’s main complaint was that of bullying and also an alleged sexual assault which had allegedly taken place at the school the previous year.

Solicitor for the Gallagher family, Patsy Gallagher said the inquest should remember that the person at the centre of the case was a child.

He appealed to young people to speak to anybody including teachers, gardaí or the school cleaner.

Coroner Denis McCauley returned a finding of death by suicide.

“This is a terrible tragedy, we can feel sorry but we cannot really understand the pain that this has caused,” he said.

If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org; Yourmentalhealth.ie has a directory of mental health services; or call Pieta House at 1800-247247 or text HELP to 51444 or email mary@pieta.ie.

Childline’s 24-hour phone service can contacted on 1800 666666. Support is also available by texting the word: ‘talk’ to 50101, ‘bully’ to 50101 and ‘help’ to 50101. Resources for children and parents are available on ispcc.ie and childline.ie.