School appeals for time and space after Shannon and Erin Gallagher's deaths

Erin (left) and Shannon Gallagher

The school attended by Erin and Shannon Gallagher has appealed for time and space after Shannon's death less than two months after the suicide of her younger sister.

Shannon, 15, who paid emotional tributes following 13-year-old Erin’s death, was found dead in Co Donegal last night. It is believed she also died by suicide.

Shannon and Erin's grandfather James Gallagher told 4FM that Shannon had been wrapping Christmas presents last night and was "missing her wee sister".

The Donegal VEC, which runs Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, which both girls attended, said they were “trying to find the words and response”.

Chief executive Shaun Purcell said school staff and health agencies involved needed to be given time to support the community.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, school and community at this sad time,” he said.

The Gallagher family, from Ballybofey, were said to be “completely distressed” by the tragedy.

Erin had posted comments on a social networking site before her death on October 27, reacting to people she claimed had been bullying her.

Investigations were launched into claims that she had been a victim of cyber bullying.

Two psychologists, guidance counsellors, Finn Valley principal Frank Dooley and other teaching staff met this morning to discuss how to support students.

Shannon was found dead at about midnight last night. A Garda spokeswoman said she was found in a townland known as Stranamuck, near Castlefinn, Co Donegal several miles from her home.

A crisis incident team was put in place at Finn Valley College and Mr Purcell said the school would still have been in crisis mode following Erin’s death.

In a statement on behalf of the Donegal VEC, Mr Purcell said the primary concern was the welfare of pupils and staff.

“This is an extremely difficult time for all concerned. The critical incident team is in place in the school as a support for students and staff,” he said.

“We understand that the press and media are anxious to cover the tragedy. However, the welfare of its students and staff is the primary concern of Co Donegal VEC.

“We request that the appropriate agencies are allowed the necessary time and space to support the school.”

A spokesperson for Samaritans said: “We were saddened to hear about the recent deaths in the Gallagher family and our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time. Every suicide is a terrible tragedy and that’s why Samaritans’ trained volunteers are available round-the-clock, every single day, to offer confidential support to anyone struggling to cope.

"We believe that talking about your situation can help alleviate despair and help you to find a way forward. We would strongly encourage anyone feeling distressed by the news to contact Samaritans on: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI) and 08457 909090 (NI), email or find the details for the local branch at”

Mayor of Donegal Frank McBrearty expressed his sincerest condolences to Shannon's family and friends.

“His thoughts and prayers are with Shannon’s family, friends and her wider community at this very sad time,” he said in a statement through the county council.

Mr McBrearty joined the Donegal VEC in appealing for authorities be given time and space to review the circumstances of Shannon’s death and respond in the most appropriate way.

“He is also asking that the wishes of the family for privacy at this very sad time be respected by all concerned,” the council said.

In a statement, the Health Service Executive (HSE) West said it had been notified of a tragic, unexpected death in Donegal.

“The HSE extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased,” it said.

“Currently, the HSE is liaising with the family in relation to this incident and all supports are being made available to provide assistance at this difficult time.”

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