Northern Ireland news

Cavan teenager (18) who took his own life had been bullied because his father was a Protestant

Eden Heaslip, from Cavan, took his own life in September 2021. Picture: RTE Prime Time
Marie Louise McConville

The family of a Cavan teenager who took his own life just two weeks after his 18th birthday have told of how he was targeted by bullies because his father was a Protestant.

Eden Heaslip, who grew up near the village of Crosskeys, died by suicide last September.

Described as "the character of the family", the young man loved cars and had dreamed of becoming a mechanic.

Four months on from his death, his parents Maggie and Raymond have revealed to RTÉ's Prime Time how their son was targeted because he came from a mixed marriage.

Raymond Heaslip said his son's behaviour changed when he started secondary school, describing how he "didn't seem to be happy in himself".

Eden's brother, Finn later realised his younger sibling was being targeted by bullies though when he would intervene to help, Eden would ask him not to.

Former First Minister Arlene Foster said in a Tweet: "I read this story last week and to be honest I thought about it most of the weekend. How could this happen in todays ‘modern’ society. I hope his bullies are ashamed as the pathetic creatures they are. The social media platforms could and should also deal with the hate online."

The family said things got worse whenever Finn left school.

Raymond found his son out "on the road" one night in November 2020 and it was then that Eden admitted he was being bullied.

The family arranged private counselling for Eden and asked family friend, Fr Jason Murphy, to have a chat with the teenager.

The priest said: "He talked about bullying that he experienced over a period of years, and he talked about it without any form of emotion.

"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".

The following summer, Eden revealed to his father the extent of the bullying including how his head had been put down a toilet and how he was kicked.

He said: "Dad, they knock me to the ground and I couldn’t understand it. They would say to me, then, ‘Go home to your own country, you black Protestant bastard!’"

While Eden's mother Maggie is a Catholic, his father, Raymond is Church of Ireland.

Raymond said: "We are a mixed marriage here, and we have a happy mixed marriage. We learned to accept each other’s religions and we lived it.

"They were deciding, by their own ignorance, what he was, or who he was".

Eden's mother, Maggie added: "Maybe these young fellas think, ‘oh, it's only banter, I didn't really mean it,’ but if you were getting it all the time, every day, it is pain. And I know that, from Eden, it was pain for him."

The young man was also targeted on social media by bullies who used fake profiles.

Even after he died, horrific messages continued to be sent.

Despite involving the Gardai, Eden would not name his bullies and on September 20, 2021, two weeks after his 18th birthday, took his own life.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Eden's family started an anti-bullying campaign and want more done to tackle cyber-bullying.

Maggie said: "People can set up an Instagram account under a false name and false everything, post their poison about him and then close it straight away – and nobody can trace them".

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