Belfast Telegraph

Oisin McGrath death: Family say boy's loss 'breaks our heart every minute of every day'

'This is our 3rd Christmas without Oisín and time is no healer, he should be here'

By Claire Williamson

The family of a 13-year-old boy who died following an incident where he was struck on the head at his school have said his loss "breaks our heart every minute of every day".

On Friday a Fermanagh man was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for three years at Dungannon Crown Court for the manslaughter of Oisin McGrath at St Michael's College in Enniskillen in 2015.

Francis McDermott, 20, from Camphill Park, Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh pleaded guilty in October to manslaughter following the incident on February 9, 2015 whenever both were students at the school.

Oisin's family paid tribute to him in a statement following the sentencing as they prepare for their third Christmas without him.

They said he was "tragically taken from us" after he was struck on the back of the head.

They said: "Oisín was an amazing young person with his whole life ahead of him, we will always miss his presence; his voice, his laughter and the pride we felt watching him grow into a wonderful young individual.  It breaks our hearts every minute of every day that we will never see him, hear him, or hug him again.

"There are simply no words to express the enormous pain we have all suffered since that day and the circumstances in which we lost Oisín, make it even harder to believe that he is gone and that something like this could happen to him.

"We would like to make it clear that Oisín was in complete and full health when he was killed.  There were no underlying conditions.  He was not struck by a bottle or a ball, Oisín was intentionally struck by Francis McDermott and this action caused his death.  If Oisín had not been hit, he would still be here today."

The family said on the day that Oisin died their lives "stood still, shattered forever".

"While no sentence will change that for us, today’s sentence is not proportionate in any way to killing Oisín.  Oisín paid the ultimate price with his life and we, without him, are left with our own life sentence. 

No words versed today will bring Oisín back or change the damage caused.

"The impact of the court case itself and the length of time that it has taken to get to a guilty plea have also caused extreme stress and anxiety.  Further anxiety and hurt continues to be caused by the notion that what other families in this situation are going through, equates to what we are living through.

"There is only one family and one group of friends in this circumstance whose loved one went to school that morning and never came home again.  This is our 3rd Christmas without Oisín and time is no healer, he should be here.

"We believe that for Oisín and for other young boys, who find themselves injured by older boys or anyone, there has to be a consequence.  For striking any person and in particular to the back of the head, there must be consequences.  In Oisín’s case, the blow was fatal – we plead with all young people to think before they act, one strike can kill and sadly for Oisín and for us, it did.  The human body is very resilient but also very fragile.  If people don’t think before they act, they certainly should."

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.

The family thanked the emergency services for their work and their efforts to save him and for the witnesses, especially the young boy's friends who were "so brave" in the "face of the most horrific circumstances".

They added: "Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who has sent us messages, cards and letters of support, sympathy and love.  From those closest to us, to those we don’t know, we have been overwhelmed by your continued kindness and support.

"Our battle to deal with our loss has only just begun; it’s a horrific, stomach churning, tearful and emotional place that we never thought we would find ourselves in.  We miss Oisín so much and need to try to deal with our loss as best we can, so we would respectfully ask that our family are now left to grieve in peace.

"Oisín will be forever running in our hearts and we will continue to raise awareness of organ donation and brain injury in his memory, as well as continuing with youth sports development in our community; but nothing will ever be the same again."

Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Talbot, from PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, said: "First and foremost our thoughts today go to the family of Oisin McGrath who continue to mourn the loss of the young teenager.

“While the sentencing brings a close to the police investigation, it does not bring an end to the pain Oisin’s family and friends are suffering. They continue to face life without Oisin and miss him daily as he was their beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin. They will now not see him finish his education or find a career, grow into a young man or know what his future may have held.

“The events which took place at the school over two years ago show all too tragically what can happen when a person is struck. In this tragic case, one blow to Oisin’s head/neck area was enough to kill him.

“I would like to remind people that one spur of the moment action, whether it’s at a school or in any other setting, can have long term and devastating consequences for all involved - the victim and also the perpetrator. I would urge people to think before they act, as one strike can kill.”

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