Mother to sue VEC over deaths of her daughters

The mother of sisters Erin and Shannon Gallagher, who both died by suicide, is to sue school authorities for damages.

Erin Gallagher, 13, was found dead on Oct 27 following claims she had been repeatedly bullied. Just six weeks later, her sister Shannon also took her life.

Their mother Lorraine has spoken of her hurt and anguish at the chain of events that led to the deaths of her two daughters.

Mrs Gallagher said she is launching the legal proceedings to find answers as to why more was not done to help Erin.

Speaking in the presence of her solicitor Patsy Gallagher, Mrs Gallagher, 36, confirmed she has launched legal proceedings against Donegal Vocational Education Committee for negligence and breach of duty.

A letter on behalf of Mrs Gallagher was sent to Donegal VEC by Gallagher Brennan Solicitors on Dec 4 — days before Shannon took her own life.

Mr Gallagher said his office has still not received a reply to that letter.

In the letter to Donegal VEC, the family claims:

* The school failed in its duty to provide “a safe, supervised, monitored, controlled working environment for all students”.

* Erin “was subjected to a persistent, prolonged, aggressive campaign of both mental and physical torture, bullying, abuse, harassment, assaults and intimidation”.

* She was offered very little protection by the school.

* The impact of this “coupled with the physical, emotional and psychological abuse has resulted in devastating consequences for Lorraine Gallagher and her family”.

The family also claims that despite the school authorities being made “fully aware” of the abuse, they “failed, refused, and/or neglected” to take steps to ensure her safety.

Mr Gallagher also confirmed the family will take similar proceedings against the HSE at a future stage.

Mrs Gallagher said all the warning signs were there for school authorities and the HSE to protect her children but the system failed them.

“Erin went from being a great student who regularly got As to a withdrawn student who got 0% in one of her last exams before she died. All the signs were there and not enough was done to protect her.”

Mrs Gallagher said she has no doubt that Erin’s suicide directly led to her older sister Shannon’s death. “It was as if she became a different person overnight. She completely changed as a person.”

Shaun Purcell, chief executive of Donegal VEC, confirmed they have received contact from Mrs Gallagher’s legal team which they have passed on to their legal representatives.

He said it was a very difficult time for everyone concerned and expressed his sincere sympathy to Mrs Gallagher and her family.

“Our energies are going into helping the people who need our support at present. Of course, we have sympathy for the Gallagher family but we cannot speak about a legal issue at this time.”

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