by STACEY HEANEY
THE COMMUNITY has been left devastated this week by the deaths of two young children from neighbouring areas.
The deaths of 13-year-old Martin Rooney and. Ciara Doherty 11, in unconnected incidents, left local people in shock. Martin took his own life and Ciara died in what her parents believe was a accident and that she didn't intend to take her own life.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at St. Luke's Church in Twinbrook for the funeral of Martin, a pupil at St. Colm's HS, on Monday. He passed away in hospital last Thursday after being found near a river path in Twinbrook two days earlier.
Ciara was found dead in the bathroom of her Mount Eagles home by her mother last Friday evening. The first year pupil at St. Louise's College, Belfast was buried on Wednesday.
There were emotional scenes as friends of Martin hugged each other and wept as Sarah McLachlan's 'In The Arms of An Angel was played as the 13-year-old's body was carried into the Church.
Father Brian McCann said it had been heartbreaking to watch Martin's parents, Carol Ann and Martin, keep vigil.
"We really should not be here. Martin had so much to live for. It doesn't make sense for parents to grieve over their own flesh and blood" he told the mourners.
Fr McCann described Martin as "loving, giving, generous and a charmer"
who was "full of enthusiasm."
And he encouraged anyone in need of support and help to "turn to others".
Amelda Jordan, Principal of St Colm's, said Martin's death had deeply affected and saddened the close knit school community.
"He was a very popular boy with a large friendship group because of his outgoing and friendly personality. As a keen and talented soccer player he was respected by his team mates, both on and off the field" she said. "Martin's family are heartbroken and now need our prayers and the time and privacy to try to deal with their grief."
11-year-old Ciara's heartbroken family, meanwhile, laid their beloved daughter to rest on Wednesday.
Father John Forsythe told mourners at Christ the Redeemer that she had not intended to take her own life. "Last Friday night I was called to Ciara's house to administer the Last Rites," he said. "To pray for her and with her family. Over and over her mother Mary kept repeating with utter conviction, 'she never meant this, she never intended this'.
He said what had happened had been a 'fit of pique' which had gone too far.
Fr Forsythe said "Ciara's family has a sword of sorrow through their hearts," and warned children of social networking, emphasising the importance of "authentic friends" over friends you do not know and cannot trust.
He said: "Respect the good advice of people who love you and care for you, your parents, teachers."
Father Forsythe described the "cruel" loss for Ciara's parents.
All their hopes and dreams of a daughter growing up, wearing outrageous clothes, having a funny hair style, falling in love, her formal, doing well in school, being a bridesmaid or her own wedding day, all these have been rolled up, her life, her love, her laughter, all that was good about Ciara, and is all that now to be defined by the full stop at the end of her story?"
Carmel McCartan, Principal at St Louise's, described Ciara as "a very kind, gifted, intelligent girl who was full of life and extremely popular with pupils and staff alike. The suddenness of her death has added to our collective sense of loss.
"On behalf of the Board of Governors, staff and pupils of St Louise's College, I wish to offer our sincere condolences to Ciara's family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time."
Local Councillor Charlene O'Hara said the community was "devastated" by the deaths.
"It's a tragedy for both families, who are absolutely devastated and we're devastated; the whole community feels it. Over the weekend the whole community pulled together and I have to commend the suicide prevention organisations who are working at the coal face. They have been working with young people since the last spate of deaths, providing information and advice and have been out on the streets supporting our young people. Over the weekend we convened a meeting with statutory agencies to find out what resources we can get into the area."
The Colin Heaiteh for All Suicide Prevention Task Group met on Tuesday to sustain the suicide prevention support in the area following the tragic events of the past week.
Speaking after the meeting and on behalf of all the organisations present Annie Armstrong, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and Co-Chair of the Task Group said, "Members of the Colin Task Group have worked closely with local partners, organisations and the community to provide a wide range of help and support in the area. They want to ensure that everyone is aware of these services and in particular the availability of the regional LIFELINE service which is available 24/7 on 0808 808 8000 or by accessing the website www.lifelinehelpline.info.
"I would encourage anyone who is in despair or crisis themselves or who
nave concerns about a son, daughter or friend to avail of the help that is available."
`Help is always here'
LOCAL counselling services have urged anyone who feels worried or anxious to accept help.
Karen Collins-Neill, Chief Executive of New Life Counselling, which provides counselling services to children and young people across Northern Ireland, said the latest news had shocked the local community and renewed concerns about the growing number of young lives lost in the area.
"Society must react in a determined and co-ordinated fashion and ensure people can reach out for appropriate help if they are feeling worried or anxious about anythrng in their lives, no matter how trivial it may seem" she said.
"New Life Counselling works with children in schools across Northern Ireland, and we want to encourage children and young people who have concerns to talk to us, and encourage their friends to do so too. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of these young people at this difficult time."
New Life Counselling offers counselling services and therapeutic support
in the community and in over 180 post primary schools across Northern Ireland. Referral can be completed online at www.newlifecounselling.net or via phone at either 90 746180 or 9039 1630.
New Life Counselling a charitable organisation and services are provided free of charge.
First and Deputy First Minister meet agencies
FIRST Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness met representatives of the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership following the tragic deaths.
Among the issues at the meeting on Tuesday were efforts by local organisations to tackle suicide rates in the area.
Speaking after the meeting Mr. Robinson said he welcomed the chance to meet representatives of the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership to hear first hand of the many difficulties they face. He said: "Many people are doing tremendous work to address the terrible blight of suicide across many of our communities. As we have seen in recent days, suicide has no respect for age and I offer my sincere condolences to those families who have been so tragically bereaved in the last number of days."
Mr. McGuinness also expressed his deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who had died and said that his thoughts and prayers were with them at this difficult time- He said: "This is a time for communities to come together. The issue of suicide is difficult and emotive and one which the Executive takes seriously- To this end the First Minister and I will liaise with colleagues, including the Minister for Health, with a view to discussing the issue at the next meeting of the Executive."