Despair Of Young Is Being Ignored

Thursday 5th August 2004

By Alan Erwin - Newsletter

The despair driving young people to suicide has been ignored amid the push to turn Belfast into a centre of prosperity, a priest claimed yesterday.

fiona barnes funeralAs hundreds gathered for the funeral of a teenager who hanged herself at her boyfriend's graveside, the Rev Stephen Rooney criticised the authorities' failure to deal with the crisis.

He told mourners: "They are trying to tell us it's a place of hope, but they drove us to hopelessness and deprived us of hope.

"Now, by a click of their fingers, they expect, by putting more money in our pockets, we are supposed to have this great sense of hope overnight . They took it from us and it's going to be a long time before we can get it back."

Fr Rooney delivered his scathing assessment as he paid tribute to Fiona Barnes, the 18-year-old from west Belfast who took her own life at the weekend.

She was found by a passer-by close to where her boyfriend Michael McComb, 19, was buried after committing suicide in May.

With his death believed to be linked to the killing of his younger sister in a joyriding accident two years ago, Fiona's parents Aidan and Maura believe Fiona died of a broken heart.

As relatives, neighbours and friends in the tight-knit Ballymurphy district packed into the Church of the Annunciation, they heard Fr Rooney - a family cousin who flew in from Detroit to take the service - describe Fiona's death as "complicated".

Her death, which raised fears of more suicides after 13 young people killed themselves in north Belfast at the start of the year, was symptomatic of a hopelessness among those who feel there are no answers, Fr Rooney said.

Earlier, crowds gathered outside the family home as Fiona's coffin was taken out for funeral mass.

A lorry laden with wreaths travelled with the cortege which passed the spot where 15-year-old Debbie McComb was killed by joyriders in a stolen car in March 2002.

Meanwhile, Antrim town came to a standstill yesterday as the funeral took place of brothers Ciaran and Karl O'Loan.

Ciaran, 25, and Karl, 18, were killed in a road accident on the Antrim Coast Road on Sunday.

The brothers were riding motorcycles which were involved in a collision with a car.