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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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Priest at Elisha Gault funeral urges young people to turn off phones and find a support network

“Facebook are artificial friends. You need real people around you.”

Image: Garda Press

THE CHIEF CELEBRANT at the funeral Mass for Elisha Gault has urged teenagers to form strong support networks around themselves and to prioritise ‘real people’ rather than the ‘artificial friends’ to be found on social media.

Elisha Gault (14) was buried yesterday in Piltown, Co Kilkenny, following funeral Mass at the Church of the Assumption where she made her first communion and confirmation in years gone by.

Her heartbroken parents Grainne Gault and Cameron Moore helped to carry the teenager’s coffin into the church for the Mass, attended by hundreds of people including many of similar age to the much-loved young girl, and on its final journey afterwards to the graveyard across the road. Elisha’s sisters Bhrianna, Chloe-Nicole and Saoirse were also comforted by family members and friends.

Elisha’s body was found in the River Suir on Sunday evening by search and rescue helicopter crew members taking part in the multi-agency search which had got underway over a week earlier when she was reported missing by her family.

She was last seen alive on Dillon Bridge in Carrick-on-Suir on St Patrick’s night.

‘Very sad morning’

As her remains left her home on New Street in Carrick yesterday morning, hundreds lined the streets of the town in silence as the cortege made its way to Dillon Bridge. There, family members and many friends dropped white flowers into the river in remembrance of the much-loved 14-year-old, before the funeral moved on to Piltown.

Symbols of Elisha’s short life brought to the altar at the outset of the Mass included a book and a phone as well as a cross and a bible.

Parish priest Fr Paschal Moore, who concelebrated the Mass with other priests from the area, described Elisha as a “beautiful young girl” and said it was a sad morning for her family, her schoolmates from Comeragh College, the staff of the college, the community, and all her friends.

Every funeral is sad. Every departure brings its sorrows but today nothing can compare to the grief, the searing grief, that Elisha’s family are now experiencing so our thoughts and our prayers are for them on this very, very sad morning.

In his homily, Fr Moore said Elisha’s death has given rise to many emotions among family members and the community: disbelief, shock, anger, guilt, even abandonment.

“Elisha’s death has raised many questions but hasn’t given many answers.

This morning we want to really and truly empathise with this family, the Gault and Moore family, because they have been robbed of the company of their loving daughter, they have been robbed of her unique enthusiasm and her joy and her smile.

“They’ve been deprived of her gentle presence. There is an emptiness, a void that no-one can fill this morning for them.”

The community wanted to be the “shoulder you can lean on,” he said.

“Elisha’s outward appearance and behaviour were masked by an air of hopelessness within. She felt trapped, she was a prisoner of her feelings and her thoughts which weighed heavily on her and she was in turmoil, a turmoil we can never appreciate or understand.

“Elisha, she took the only route she felt she could take. She took the only route she felt she could take. Not the right route, not the right choice, but it was the only route that she felt she could take. Her actions have left her family, her community, her schoolfriends devastated and completely, utterly upset and confused. We pray that she is at peace today.”

‘You need real people around you’

He addressed some words directly to her schoolmates and friends, pointing out a leaflet, My Support Network, available in the church.

“We all have our worries, our stresses and our anxieties. The problem arises when our anxiety takes over every part of our lives.

Today, boys and girls, I encourage you to form a support network around yourselves… I would encourage you also to turn off your iPhone every now and again.

“Facebook is wonderful at times and people boast about how many friends they have on Facebook, but your friends on Facebook are artificial friends.

You need real people around you, real genuine, caring people and I would encourage you, every one of you, to find a real, good support network for yourselves.

During the week, Elisha’s mother Grainne said on Facebook that her “gorgeous, beautiful” daughter “had a genuine soul but she was a troubled girl” and that mental health is “a serious and desperate issue,” not only in Ireland but around the world.

Read: ‘My beautiful funny intelligent baby’: Family in mourning after body of 14-year-old Elisha Gault discovered

Read: Gardaí confirm body found in river is missing 14-year-old Elisha Gault

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Conor Kane

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