Four young trees are standing in what was once waste ground in a Portlaoise estate, marking a community that has united to protect its youth.
Knockmay estate was devastated by two suicides last March, but last Saturday, the community gathered on their new sports field and planted trees in memory of their loved ones, and in celebration of new youth clubs.
The trees were blessed by Fr Paddy Byrne CC, and will each get a plaque, one in memory of Craig Kelly-Gorman, aged 15, one for all who have passed away in the area, and trees for Knockmay Foróige youth club and Knockmay M&M kids club in Treo Nua.
Fr Byrne says the area was “devastated at the loss of two young lives”.
“The blessing of the trees creastes not just awareness but a sense of presence and hope. There is a strong close knit community in Knockmay, that is a positive thing, they will help one another,” he said.
He believes there is not enough help for suicide.
“The answer is awareness, such as last weekend’s Cycle for suicide. It is a huge issue, obviously there is not enough support,” he said.
John Delaney is chairman of the residents association.
“It was an emotional evening, but to see the bond between the community and the Gorman family was unbelievable. Those trees will be looked after I have no doubt,” he said.
There was a large crowd of residents at the ceremony, including many children.
“It gives other kids a chance to see that we are there to support them. I think it will make a big difference. We will be keeping a very close eye on other kids. The family are devastated, you could see it in their faces. We are trying to keep the area together now, and look after our youth coming up. We are there to help them,” Mr Delaney said.
He says further drainage has to be done on the field, but a summer camp organised by Laois County Council has 63 children already signed up.
“We will hold the first phase in the grounds of Portlaoise college, and the second on the field when it is complete. It’s a good vibe for the summer,” he said.
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