MEMBERS of Limerick’s city vocational educational committee have welcomed news the government has dedicated €500,000 to tackling the problem of youngsters taking their own lives.
Following the tragic death of Shannon Gallagher, who took her own life weeks after her sister Erin, the committee discussed measures schools can take to support students.
The chief executive of the committee Paul Patton praised a number of city schools for initiatives they have taken to help students who are being bullied, whether it is face-to-face or online.
He cited an article in the St Nessan’s school newsletter, entitled ‘Bullies never win, winners never bully’.
Southside Labour councillor Joe Leddin said parents need to be helped in preventing their children accessing potentially hurtful material online.
“We need to inform parents who not up to speed in terms of ICT. How do they prevent their children accessing these sites,” he asked the committee.
Joanne Aherne, who teaches at St Nessan’s School, says some of the messages used by cyberbullies are “incredulous.”
She said many cyberbullies refer to the student’s appearance.
“They may be lovely people when you come face to face with them, but they change, and they get sucked into this,” she said.
Ms Aherne added that often the victim feels so weak and disempowered, they would feel unable, or afraid to report it.
Mr Patton said it can also be difficult to report abuse such as this, due to the need to contact internet service providers, and gain cached pages.
Former mayor, southside Fine Gael councillor Maria Byrne welcomed the funding commitment by the government.
“Obviously, it is a huge issue after the two sad deaths above in Donegal, and others around the country. It is something which needs to be tackled,” she told councillors.
Cllr Jim Long said the government has “at last recognised the very serious problem of bullying in our schools.”
“I have had to intervene between school principles and very worried parents on this matter. It causes huge stress for child, parent, and the school administration, as it is very often the bullying being targeted by a young school-goer directly onto another. I have found through my experience that in a lot of cases the children involved often start out their term as friends, which confounds the problem for all concerned,” the southside councillor explained, saying the initiative is a “positive move”.