Teenager’s legacy for peers ‘will live long’

A coroner who frequently highlights the high level of suicide in the country believes appeals by the late Dónal Walsh to his peers not to take their lives will have a lasting impact.

Terence Casey, who presides over inquests in south Kerry, said the 16-year-old was a hero.

“I believe his appeals are already having an impact and will help prevent suicide far into the future for as long as he is remembered,’’ said Mr Casey.

He said Dónal, who recently won a local hero award, had more influence in suicide prevention that all the TDs and senators put together.

“What he has done is unbelievable for a lad of his age,’’ said the Killarney-based solicitor.

“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.”

The word “inspirational” kept cropping up in the scores of tributes that came through all forms of media following Dónal’s death.

He was remembered as a teen with a winning smile who knew his time was limited, but never complained or felt sorry for himself and did not use his terminal cancer to make excuses.

Dónal’s memorable quote, “I never got angry about my illness”, was also recalled.

Dónal, who raised €50,000 for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, was an enthusiastic rugby player and his ambition was to play for Munster. When cancer finished his playing days at Tralee RFC, he took up refereeing and coaching other youngsters.

Jay Galvin, the club’s director of rugby, said members were “heartbroken and stunned’’, even though they had known Dónal’s life was coming to an end.

“Everyone is so, so sad today,’’ said Mr Galvin. “But the impact he has made and his legacy are something phenomenal, despite his short years. I was with him during the 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 Dónal had “taken the lid off the topic of suicide’’, and recalled his strong faith.

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

Ruairi O’Rahilly, the teacher at Tralee CBS who nominated Dónal for a local hero award in Kerry, said he was humbled to have known someone who was admired by the entire school. CBS principal Anne O’Callaghan said it was a difficult time for the 620 students of the school, especially for Dónal’s friends, most of whom would not have experienced the death of someone close to them.

“They did a lot of things with him over the past few months, things Dónal wanted to do,’’ Ms O’Callaghan told Radio Kerry.

Chief Supt Pat Sullivan, Kerry’s senior garda and a member of the local hero awards panel, said Dónal had a very positive influence on people with addictions and other problems.

Family and friends comforted parents Dónal’s Fionnbar and Elma and sister Jemma at the Walsh family home in Blennerville, near Tralee, yesterday.

Dónal’s remains will repose in the Walsh home from 2pm to 8pm today, when members of the public can pay their respects. Requiem Mass will be celebrated at noon tomorrow in St John’s Church, Tralee, with burial afterwards in Rath Cemetery, Tralee.

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

Twitter reactions

*Dan Carter (New Zealand rugby outhalf)

Sad to hear the news of young @Donal_Walsh_ #RIP #inspiration thoughts go out to his family & friends.

*Peter Stringer (former Munster and Ireland scrum half)

@Donal_Walsh_ A brave and inspirational young man who will be dearly missed.

*James Downey (Munster rugby centre)

So sad to hear of the passing of @Donal_Walsh_ was a true fighter and absolute gent. A modern day hero #RIPDONAL

*David Kilcoyne (Munster rugby prop forward)

Very tough to hear the passing of @Donal_Walsh_ #RIP

*Dónal Óg Cusack (former Cork hurling goalkeeper)

Sad to hear about this passing... inspirational outlook... lesson to all of us... live while we can... #RIP Donal Walsh...

*Paul Kerrigan (Cork Gaelic footballer)

RIP @Donal_Walsh_ What an inspirational guy! #bravery

*Paul Galvin (Kerry Gaelic footballer)

I got your letter on Friday kid. I will carry that out for you. Good to know you and God Bless You @Donal_Walsh_

*Paddy McBrearty (Donegal Gaelic footballer)

Saddened to hear about the passing of Donal Walsh. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family. #Hero

*Hector Ó hEochagáin (2fm presenter)

Dedicating our After 8 song this morning in memory of @Donal_Walsh_ May he rest in peace #ripdonalwalsh

*Nicky Byrne (former Westlife member)

Such a sad story. RIP Donal.

*Gerry Adams

I awoke 2 news of the death of brave Donal Walsh. He was an inspiration. Saw him on TV talking about life. Very moved by his bravery


Alliance recognises children’s champion in @Donal_Walsh_ His is an enduring legacy of empowerment and resilience for young people. #RIPDonal

*Andrea Roche (former Miss Ireland)

People complain about being broke, fat, hating their job, Monday mornings, & silly things — sad when u think of @Donal_Walsh_ ??##appreciatelife

*Darran O’Sullivan (Kerry GAA player)

Just hearing about the passing of #donalwalsh what an inspiration! RIP friend your bravery & strength was incredible

More on this topic

'I couldn’t face the church, couldn’t face going to Mass' - Mother of Donal Walsh speaks of her grief'I couldn’t face the church, couldn’t face going to Mass' - Mother of Donal Walsh speaks of her grief

Tralee honours parents of late teen Donal Walsh for positive achievementsTralee honours parents of late teen Donal Walsh for positive achievements

Kerry coroner pays tribute to Donal Walsh after fall in number of confirmed suicidesKerry coroner pays tribute to Donal Walsh after fall in number of confirmed suicides


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