Eden Heaslip’s bullies called him a ‘black, Protestant b*****d” as they kicked him on the ground
Arlene Foster has said she hopes those behind a sectarian bullying campaign that led to a Cavan teenager taking his own life “are ashamed as the pathetic creatures they are”.
The family of Eden Heaslip have revealed he was targeted by bullies because he was the son of a mixed marriage.
Eden, from Killynanum, Carrickaboy, had made plans to become a mechanic and “start a new chapter” in his life but took his own life just two weeks after his 18th birthday.
In an episode of RTÉ’s Prime Time which aired on Tuesday night, the late teenager’s father Raymond said that Eden had been subjected to “every form of bullying” involving physical, online and verbal abuse, including being called a “black, Protestant b*****d”.
He was even sent abusive message on Instagram after his death.
Former First Minister Mrs Foster tweeted on Wednesday to say she had thought about Eden’s story for most of the weekend after reading about it last week.
"I hope his bullies are ashamed as the pathetic creatures they are,” added the GB News presenter. “The social media platforms could and should also deal with the hate online.”
Raymond said that along with enduring being abused, having objects thrown at him and having his head forcibly stuck down dirty toilets, his son’s torturers would also consistently kick him to the ground and send him online abuse outside of school.
Eden told his father that his bullies would say to him, “‘Go home to your own country, you black, Protestant b*****d”.
"His mother is Roman Catholic and I am Church of Ireland, and we are the mixed marriage here, and we had a happy mixed marriage,” the heartbroken dad explained.
"This hurt him, because they were deciding what he was by his name. His name was Heaslip, and they were deciding that by their own ignorance. They said a lot of stuff to him. It wasn’t all religion.”
Heaslip is considered a traditionally Protestant surname in the area that the family lives, but Raymond added that he hoped derogatory comments made to his son by bullies were driven for a desire to just be hurtful, not specifically sectarian.
Eden had moved to a new school in 2020, where the pupils didn’t know of the bullying. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Eden’s father said that was “the ruination” as he “didn’t get to bond with new friends as much as he would like”.
As well as arranging private counselling for Eden, his family called upon the help of local priest Father Jason Murphy to talk with him.
"He talked about bullying that he experienced over a period of years, and he talked about it without any form of emotion,” Fr Jason told Prime Time.
"It was as if there was an emptiness there – and this had become part and parcel of his life, and it was his everyday. It was his normal.
"And the tears just flowed from my eyes – just listening to the pain that he was going through.
"I remember, at one stage, he got up and he pulled a sheet off the kitchen roll and handed it to me. He was ministering to me. I was there to listen to him, and yet he was the one that was comforting me as I listened to his pain."
Eden had been attending the Child and Adolescent Mental Health service (CAMHS) when he died by suicide last year.
His family are now calling for more action to be taken regarding online bullying and following his death, they started a campaign, printing thousands of car stickers with the slogan "Be Buddies, Not Bullies".
"Eden was still getting horrible messages on his Instagram account when he died,” said his mother Maggie.
"People can set up an Instagram account under a false name, post their poison about him, and then close it straight away. And nobody can trace them.”
A new bill was passed in the Republic of Ireland last year called Coco’s Law, in which people guilty of online harassment and revenge porn there could face up to 10 years in prison.
It was brought about and named in memory of a 21-year-old Dublin woman, Nicole ‘Coco’ Fox, who died by suicide in 2018 after years of online harassment.
However, there is no direct legislation here or across the border, which defines ‘bullying’ in schools or the workplace as a prosecutable crime.
"The schools can suspend but an actual prosecution for making your life a misery is not there at the minute and the only way you'll get it there is if Gardai and people understand bullying is going on and it's rampant on social media," Raymond had told Northern Sound FM a few months ago.
Eden’s sister Chloe said that she and her family didn’t know about Coco’s Law when Eden died, and she doesn’t think many others do either, and so hopes that sharing her brother’s story will raise more awareness around it.
"If you’re being bullied, report it. It’s there,” she reiterated, four months on from her brother’s death.
"I've lost a brother. Chloe’s lost a brother. Mam and dad have lost their son. Everyone has lost a friend," added Eden’s older brother Finn, who has also set up a GoFundMe page and organised fundraising events for his family’s anti-bullying campaign.
"We might never know if we helped them or not, but the least we can do is try and help stop somebody else going through the pain that we're going through," he said.
Instagram has been contacted for a response.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000