lifesaver | 

Brave mum Jackie Fox who fought for bullying legislation awarded Freedom of South Dublin

'When Nicole lost her life, Jackie was devastated. Her baby, her Coco, taken away'

Jackie Fox pictured on a bench in Courtown that is dedicated to her daughter, ’Coco’

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The mother of Nicole ‘Coco’ Fox, who died by suicide after suffering relentless bullying, awarded the freedom of South Dublin County in recognition of her anti-bullying campaigning.

Jackie Fox was conferred with the honour at a ceremony in County Hall, Tallaght on Friday.

Elected members of the council had agreed in December 2021 to recognise Ms Fox for her tireless campaigning for legislation to make online bullying a crime.

It has since been passed into law as ‘Coco’s Law’ and is named for her 21-year-old daughter who died by suicide in 2018 after she was bullied on social media.

The Honorary Freedom of the County is the highest civic honour that can be bestowed upon an individual by South Dublin County Council.

The honour is reserved for those who have made exceptional or unique contributions to the common good or to persons who have made outstanding contributions to South Dublin County.

Jackie Fox and her daughter Nicole

Addressing the event, the Mayor of South Dublin County, Cllr Peter Kavanagh, said Jackie had suffered the worst loss imaginable.

“No parent, in their worst nightmares, can imagine the heartache and emptiness that comes from losing a child,” Cllr Kavanagh said.

“When Nicole lost her life, Jackie was devastated. Her baby, her Coco, taken away.

“It would have been the most natural thing in the world for Jackie to retreat into herself, to give up. Parents devastated by such a loss can become shadows of their former selves, and those who love them understand why, even as we offer all the support we can.

“Laws don’t get written overnight, and Jackie had a long road to travel between 2018 and 2020. A long road of living through the heartbreak over and over to tell her story.

“She never wavered. She never faltered. In the midst of pain, sadness and unbearable anguish, not once did Jackie Fox say ‘enough’. She knew that her work would save lives, and she never let up."

President Michael D Higgins signed Coco’s Law into effect on December 28, 2020, but it didn’t mark the end of Jackie’s campaign.

To this day, Jackie shares her story with students and parents to ensure that everyone understands how important this law is, and how vital it is that we protect our young people.

“Tonight we remember the beautiful and talented Nicole Fox Fenlon, the wonderful Coco, for the amazing young woman she was,” Cllr Kavanagh added. “And we honour Jackie Fox, mother, crusader, champion and lifesaver."

Jackie said Nicole, who was affectionately known as Coco to friends and family, had been suffering from persistent online abuse since the age of 18

The bullying had continued even after Nicole had attempted suicide in 2016.

Jackie Fox started a campaign to have a new law to punish cyber bullies after ‘Coco’ died by suicide

Jackie said that since the new anti-bullying law was enacted in February of this year, parents now have legal support for teenagers who are being targeted

“Unfortunately, when my Nicole was going through it, there was no legislation and it wasn’t a criminal offence because there was no law, but there is now,” she told the Sunday World previously

Coco’s Law outlaws a wide range of offences, including online abuse, cyber- bullying and image-based abuse

Under the new bill, if there is ‘intent to cause harm’, the offence carries an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to seven years. If there is no intent to cause harm, the same offence will be punishable by a maximum penalty of €5,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment

When it was enacted on February 10 of last year, it created new offences which criminalise the non-consensual distribution of intimate images

Jackie is still on a mission to get the word out about Coco’s Law as there are still people who are unaware that it exists

“I don’t think anybody has been convicted under Coco’s Law yet, but there are cases before the DPP, where it will be used,” she said

“And I’m getting more and more calls now from people about it as word gets out. And it’s getting bigger. As well as the bullying there is the sharing of intimate images that I’m getting a lot of calls, particularly, from schools about."

Jackie said she found this Christmas very difficult, as it was one of Nicole’s favourite times of the year, but she says her relentless campaigning keeps her going

“I go into schools and colleges as well as Youthreach centres, where I talk about Nicole and bullying and the devastation that suicide causes. I tell them to be careful about what they say to each other. I have talks lined up all through January, February and March that are all booked out.

“I talk in the schools and then every single person there goes home knowing who Nicole is. But the number of people I come across who are still unaware of Coco’s Law proves there is a lot more work to be done

“If bullying doesn’t directly affect you, if it’s not on your doorstep, then you may not be fully aware of the issue and how many people are affected by it. So that’s why it is important that we keep getting the word out

“I’m never going to let Nicole be forgotten,” she adds, “and through Coco’s Law we will keep her legacy alive.”

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the Samaritans for free on 116 123.

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