Society failed Erin Gallagher, the funeral of the tragic 13-year-old girl heard yesterday.
Hundreds of family members, friends and classmates of the Finn Valley College student gathered at St. Mary’s Church in Stranorlar to mourn the girl who was found dead in her Ballybofey home on Saturday.
Father John Joe Duffy, speaking directly to the young people in the church, said, “I am asking you as young people to care for one another, to be kind to one another, to be there for one another.” He urged them to speak with someone they trust if they had issues in their lives that were causing them distress.
He asked young people to remove unregulated chat rooms and related web sites from their computers and phones.
“Is there any regulation of social media pages? There is not,” Father John Joe said. “Authorities may hide behind technical and other difficulties, but these sites can be regulated and they must.”
He also called on agencies of the state with responsibility for the care of children to formulate a comprehensive policy of prevention and support, “so that this day will never have to dawn on another parent or family in this country again.”
“That is the challenge we as a society now face,” he said. “We are only here today because society has failed Erin.”
Erin’s death was covered widely in the national media following reports that she had been the victim of bullying on social-networking web sites.
Father John Joe credited the supports and professional care that have been available, adding, “I thank all involved for the excellent work carried out since Saturday night”. However, he asked whether national policies and guidelines for intervention and prevention were in place.
“There is a responsibility on all of us to protect our children, and children should not have to grow up experiencing the tragedy that we have here today,” he said.
Young girls and boys embraced and sobbed outside the church, as the white coffin was placed in the hearse for the journey to Castlefin Cemetery. Young members of a local boxing club formed a guard of honour. Some young people released pink balloons as the hearse pulled away from the church.
The Finn Valley College was going to be open from noon yesterday to give students and parents and the school community an opportunity to come together. “We will see how we can take the next step together,” Principal Frank Dooley said.
Erin is survived by her mother, Lorraine; her sister, Shannon; her brother, Sean James; her grandfather, Seamus; her uncle, James; by cousins, and by relatives and friends.
Read more in today’s Donegal Democrat.