Belfast Telegraph

Family reeling after death of second son

by Fiona Rutherford

A heartbroken father has paid tribute to a “diamond of a boy” after his teenage son became the latest young person in north Belfast to take his own life.

Michael Cairns (17) was found hanged in his family home in the Oldpark area at the weekend.

The tragedy is the second suicide the Cairns family have suffered in seven years.

Michael was just 10 years old when his brother Barney took his own life on the tower of Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne.

His father George said he was struggling to come to terms with the sudden loss of two sons.

“Michael was an absolute diamond of a boy — I was so proud to be his father,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“He was a good kid, never in any trouble or anything like that.

“He was into raising funds for victims of self-harm and suicide in memory of his big brother.”

Local priest Father Gary Donegan said losing two children to suicide had left the Cairns family “absolutely broken”.

“There was nothing prior to Michael’s death to indicate that anything was wrong, so his family are totally mystified,” he added.

“He had recently been on a suicide-prevention walk in the Mourne Mountains and had helped to spread awareness of the risks.

“In the last few weeks he was also personally involved with another young person who tried to take their own life, and he prevented them from doing so.”

Fr Donegan paid tribute to a popular young man who was well-known in the north Belfast area.

“All the Cairns boys are very similar in looks, they’d go past you on the street and you’d know it was a Cairns brother,” he said.

“Michael was such a young lad at the time of Barney’s death and it affected him deeply.

“I distinctly remember him at the funeral; he looked so lost and bewildered that his big brother was gone.”

His younger brother’s funeral was due to be held at the same church today.

Meanwhile, suicide-prevention group PIPS has called for more support to be given to troubled young people in the north Belfast community.

Director Philip McTaggart, whose son took his own life eight years ago, said 23 people in the area had died as a result of suicide last year.

“We don't want to lose any more people to suicide. We want to be able to reduce this whole issue of suicide, where people are getting the help that they need,” he added.

If you have been affected by suicide or would like to speak to someone about the issue, call the Samaritans confidential phoneline on 08457 90 90 90.

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