A mother and father have recalled the devastation of not knowing the extent of the harrowing bullying their son went through before his tragic death.

12-year-old Patrick McDonagh from Finglas in Dublin died by suicide a year ago and his story will feature in a new RTE documentary to shine a light on the issue of alarmingly high suicide rates among the Irish Traveller community.

Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost only hears from Traveller voices, with the story told from their perspective and not through the lens of settled community and will be broadcast this Monday, November 27th at 9:35pm on RTE One.

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Speaking in the documentary, Patrick's mother Michelle Ward remembers treasured memories of her son.

"I remember when he was born. He was the most beautiful little boy that was ever brought into this world," she said.

"He was always clever. He loved English. He loved Irish. He knew everything about science. He loved fixing bikes. He’d take a bike apart and put it together in seconds.

"I just can't believe he left the world the way he did. I just thought he was so happy. He showed no signs."

His father Pat added that he nor his family were aware of the bullying his beloved son experienced until after his death.

"My little boy didn't tell us nothing. I mean, secrets he took it to the grave. God rest him," he said.

"We never expected Patrick to do what he done. I'm no good with phones - that's the reason why we didn't pass any notice of the phones. But when he passed away, we started taking notice of the phones, started realising it was the phone.

"It was a poxy phone. He was hiding stuff where he was being bullied. He never told us deep down inside, the mental torture. God knows what he was going through."

Michelle added: "He deleted everything off his phone before he passed away. Deleted his Snapchat. His Tiktok. I couldn't figure out why he deleted all of them, you know?

"We didn't know what he was going through until the end, until people came and told us, little friends of Patrick's came up and told us bits and pieces like we didn't know."

Patrick McDonagh
Patrick McDonagh

Speaking from Patrick's bedroom, Michelle describes her heartbreak.

She said: "I feel very heartbroken when I'm looking at all this stuff. I didn't just want him for 12 years; I wanted him forever. I was meant to go first. Not him.

"Suicide is the most hurtful thing to me as a mother. To lose a child. I feel like I have no answers. You know, why would he feel so hurt? That he thought he wouldn’t be happy in life you know? Why? I don't get it."

Research shows that more than 1 in 10 Irish Travellers die by suicide.

The suicide rate for Irish Traveller women is six times higher than settled women.

Meanwhile the suicide rate for Irish Traveller men is seven times higher than settled men.

President Michael D Higgins has called for the Irish public to watch the documentary and for it to also be aired in schools.

Patrick McDonagh's parents Pat and Michelle with President Michael D Higgins
Patrick McDonagh's parents Pat and Michelle with President Michael D Higgins

He said: "What an honour it was to attend an advance screening of Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost.

"Even though I am familiar with the issues with which the Travelling Community struggle, the personal testimonies of Patrick McDonagh's parents, and Bernie Power moved me in a way I find difficult to describe.

"It would be so valuable if all members of the public could see this film, which describes a life lost to bullying. An incredibly talented boy, interested in all aspects of life and full of curiosity, within one year had his life destroyed.

"RTE and Alleycat Films have in my mind placed all of us in their debt in what is a splendid, valuable exercise in public service broadcasting.

"There are so many reasons I could think of why this film should be seen in every household, and it would be just incredibly valuable if it were seen in every school."

Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost airs Monday night at 9.35pm on RTE One and RTE Player.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact Samaritans by calling 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie .

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