BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Funeral of suicide teenager

Funeral of suicide teenager

Bernard Cairns' body was removed from scaffolding at the church

A north Belfast teenager who hanged himself just hours after his best friend's funeral is due to be buried on Tuesday.
The body of 18-year-old Bernard Cairns was found in the grounds of Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne, hours after the funeral of another teenager who had taken his own life.

Bernard's body was removed from scaffolding at the church by a priest on Saturday afternoon.

His best friend Anthony O'Neill, also 18, died last week and his funeral Mass was held at the church earlier that day.

Community groups in north Belfast have called for urgent action to stop the number of suicides in the Ardoyne area.

" They have broke my heart - they have broken me in two - they couldn't hurt me any more than this, "
Audrey O'Neill

The organisations met on Monday to discuss the alarming rise in suicides among young people.

Republican paramilitaries are being linked to the increase as some of the young people took their own lives after being attacked.

Since the beginning of the year, 13 people have taken their lives in the area, according to north Belfast priest Father Aidan Troy.

Distress line

Father Troy described the statistics as "terrifying".

Last year, Anthony O'Neill was kidnapped, stripped, beaten up and forced into a manhole. His family blame the INLA.

His mother Audrey said: "I think it just got too much for him. He left me a note to say he loved me and that he wanted to be with his daddy in heaven," she said.

Anthony O'Neill, 18, died last week

"They have broke my heart - they have broken me in two. They couldn't hurt me any more than this. He had everything in front of him - he was my baby, my youngest of nine."

Those at the meeting in Ardoyne decided to set up an emergency distress line in a bid to cut the number of suicides.

A counselling service and phone number will be established to help young people who need someone to talk to.

'Spontaneous meeting'

Fr Troy said: "A counselling service will be put in place from tonight onwards.

"There will be a number of people contactable should young people feel the need to speak to somebody confidentially."

Father Troy said the situation was "almost out of control".

"I think there is a huge feeling in the community that there is a huge link being drawn between paramilitary beatings, punishments and threats and the deterioration in the mental health of some of the young ones that have taken their own lives," he said.

"There was a spontaneous meeting last night which drew in excess of 100 people which I see as the beginning of people saying they want this to stop, and to stop now."

Father Troy said the feeling in the area was that the Irish National Liberation Army was responsible for a growing number of paramilitary attacks on young people in the area.

The paramilitary group declared itself to be on ceasefire in August 1998.

However, Paul Little, of the IRSP, which is the political wing of the INLA, said it was wrong to blame the paramilitaries.

Mr Little said: "If you're asking the question directly, do I believe that the INLA is directly responsible for these young men deaths, I'm telling you I don't believe that they are."

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