Schoolboy Ronan Hughes's life taken by faceless online bullies
Funeral of 17-year-old taking place today
A priest has blamed faceless bullies for the death of a schoolboy who took his own life after being duped into posting photographs on the internet.
Ronan Hughes, who was from the Coalisland area, died last week.
The 17-year-old, a talented goalkeeper with the Clonoe O'Rahilly's gaelic football club, will be buried today at Clonoe Parish Church.
The tragedy prompted police to issue an appeal for young people to be wary of the dangers of social media. It is understood Ronan had told his parents about the cyber-bullying and made a complaint to police.
Last night, a priest blamed "faceless individuals" for intimidating the teenager.
Clonoe Parish Priest, Fr Benedict Fee, said: "He did not take his own life. His life was taken by these faceless people who put the child into a burning building that he felt he could not escape."
Ronan, from Coole Road, Aughamullan, passed away on Friday. His family was too distressed to speak when contacted last night, with one relative saying there was "total shock".
In a death notice, the family said his death was "very deeply regretted".
Mid-Ulster District police commander, Superintendent Mike Baird, described Ronan's death as a tragedy. "Our enquiries into this tragedy are continuing, however, it is understood the schoolboy took his own life after he had been tricked into posting images on a social networking site," he said.
Fr Fee said the close-knit East Tyrone community had been left stunned.
"It is a total and absolute tragedy but it is a different kind of tragedy because there is an element of cyber-crime involved.
"It would frighten any of us how children can be the victims of these faceless individuals.
"These people had something that they were using as a lever to frighten the child, but he had told his parents and they went to the police. It is just so tragic that these faceless people have robbed a family and community of a much-loved child."
Ronan was a pupil at St Joseph's Grammar in Donaghmore. Professional counsellors have been made available to pupils. Experts have also been drafted in to offer advice and direction on the safe use of social media.
Principal Geraldine Donnelly said the school was saddened by the "untimely death" of its "dear pupil".
"Ronan's family have been heartened by the outpouring of support and sympathy in the last number of days," she said.
"Together with Ronan's family, we want to try and protect other families from experiencing their terrible grief. We remember Ronan's family and friends in our prayers at this very sad time."
Appealing to parents, she added: "Should you have any concerns about your own or any other child, please, please do not hesitate to contact us in school."
Police have spoken to pupils at the school and offered advice regarding safe internet use. Supt Baird added: "If anyone has experienced anything of a similar nature, or has received any inappropriate images or links, it is important that they contact police or tell a trusted adult."
Ronan's GAA club described him as "a young man full of potential".
"He was a quiet and modest young lad who was popular among all players and coaches. His death has left a dark shadow hanging over our club."
- The Samaritans provides a support service for those who need to talk to someone. It can be contacted through Samaritans.org or on 08457 909090, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If you have disturbing interaction online, tell someone... advice from the police
Mid-Ulster District police commander, Superintendent Mike Baird, has urged anyone who receives inappropriate images or links to contact police or tell a trusted adult.
"By doing this, you will be helping prevent further such incidents. You will not get into trouble," he said.
He also advised young people:
- Don't share personal information or images with people you don't know.
- Don't accept friend requests from someone you don't know.
- Set your privacy settings on all devices.
- If you feel uncomfortable or you have had disturbing interaction online, tell someone you trust.
If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary.
The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also access the Lifeline website here.