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Jackie Fox / “How many ropes do we have to cut from our loved ones throats due to online bullying?

Jackie Fox
Jackie Fox is campaigning to bring in Coco's Law following the death by suicide of her daughter Nicole. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Jackie Fox, the mother of suicide victim Nicole Fox, spoke candidly about her daughters battle against bullying and her tragic death aged just 21 on Thursday (September 10), as Drogheda town marked World Suicide Prevention Day with a fourth annual special event at St Peter’s Church in the town.

Ms Fox was the special guest at the event which saw hundreds of pairs of shoes line the steps of St. Peter’s Church on West Street in memory of lost loved ones. World Suicide Prevention Day’ is observed each year to promote worldwide action to prevent suicides.

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Mayor Kevin Callan was in attendance and lit a remembrance candle to remember all those who have ended their lives prematurely through suicide while Father Barry Matthews offered a reflective prayer before Ms Fox spoke to the assembled crowd on West Street.

According to World Health Organisation, nearly 3000 people on average take their own life daily, with another 20 or more attempting to end their lives for every one that succeeds. About one million people die by suicide each year.

1,156 people in Ireland have taken their own lives in the last three years –  909 male and 247 female. In 2012, 578 people took their own lives – 471 male and 107 female.

“Today we say that these numbers are not acceptable and enough is enough. We are calling on Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly to address the under funded Mental Health Services in this Country by creating a task force on Suicide Prevention that includes an action plan to improve the nation’s understanding and attitudes towards suicidal behaviour, mental health and wellbeing,” Cllr Power said.

“As we reflect and we think of those high statistics of suicide deaths, those preventable deaths. We think of our young people that have gone, ending their own lives, well before their time. Anyone of them could have filled these shoes that lie upon these steps.

“We have one pair of shoes that rest in front of our candle. These shoes were once worn by a beautiful young girl called Nicole ‘Coco’ Fox. In those shoes ‘Coco’ walked, she ran, she jumped, she danced. Today Coco’s shoes lie empty. Nicole ‘Coco’ Fox ended her own life by suicide.

“She was bullied and harassed for two years and couldn’t take the torment anymore. Cyber bulling in this country is not a crime. It is now time for the Government to bring in ‘Coco’s Law and make cyber bullying a criminal offence and make it law as soon as possible.”

Jackie Fox will present a petition of 35,000 signatures to Labour’s TD for Wexford Brendan Howlin – Ms Fox resides in Wexford – at Leinster House next week and she used her speech to urge people to support the efforts to bring in the new legislation.

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 seeks to modernise existing harassment laws to cover modern technology and social media and comes on the back of recommendations in the Law Reform Commission’s report on Harmful Communications and Digital Strategy.

Last month, Cllr Power had a motion unanimously passed which asked for the local authority to write to government with the purpose of conveying the importance of the proposed Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill, known to some as ‘Coco’s Law’.

During his comments on the steps of St Peter’s on Thursday afternoon, Cllr Power described Ms Fox as a woman with “unbelievable passion, resilience and determination.”

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Nicole died by suicide aged just 21. Her mother described her as a “bubbly, lively, funny, cheeky ordinary young child.” She said Nicole started to get bullied in her teenage years

“It started off with two people who eventually admitted they were jealous of her,” Ms Fox said. She outlined the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her tormentors.

“They put cigarette butts out on her feet. They gave her a six inch scar on her arm. They pulled down down a flight of stairs by the hair. They dislocated her hip.

“They never left her alone,” she said. “The physical abuse went on for a long time until she couldn’t take it any more.” In 2015, Nicole attempted suicide for the first time when she took an overdose.

“Mam, the only reason I tried to kill myself is because I didn’t want you heartbroken”, she told her mother. “To hear your daughter say she wanted to die is heart wrenching.”

Nicole received a daily barrage of hateful messages which her mother admits “got into her head.” Nicole committed suicide on January 18 2018. She died two days later in Tallaght Hospital. Her mother outlined vividly the circumstances around her death.

“When the Guards told me it wasn’t a criminal offence to annihilate someone online, I just couldn’t believe it. What gives someone the right to tear strips off someone – to drag them down so low, to take away every bit of confidence where they feel they cannot live one more day?

“There is no law to tell them that they can’t, that’s why.”

“How many ropes do we have to cut from our loved ones throats due to online bullying? How many more of our loved ones have to be pulled out of a river or a lake due to online bullying. How many more stomachs have to be pumped out due to drug overdose? How many people have to take that final step off a bridge because they couldn’t take it anymore due to online bullying?

“This has to stop now. This law is going to make online bullying a criminal offence. I have been assured this law will be in before Christmas,” she said. “It’s well overdue.

The proposed legislation would also make hate speech, online stalking and the sharing of ‘revenge porn’ criminal offences.

The bill, sponsored by former Labour leader Howlin, came before the Dáil and Seanad in January of this year but has since lapsed.

The bill states that that a ‘person who, intentionally or recklessly and without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, persistently follows, watches, pesters or besets another person, or persistently communicates with another person, or persistently communicates with a third person about another person, is guilty of harassment where those acts seriously interfere with the peace and privacy of the other person or cause alarm, distress or harm to the other person.’

It also defines communication as including information that ‘is generated, processed, transmitted, received, recorded, stored or displayed by electronic means or in electronic form.’

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