"More and more people are becoming aware of Coco’s Law and now people are going in and saying that they want this investigated under the law"
Jackie Fox led a campaign for the enactment of new laws against online harassment - known as ‘Coco’s Law’ - after her 21-year-old daughter who took her own life after she was bullied on social media.
Speaking in relation to the tragic case of the Cavan teen Eden Heaslip who took his own life after being subjected to a campaign of bullying, Jackie said more awareness was needed.
Yesterday, Eden’s parents, Raymond and Maggie, described the torment suffered by Eden before his death in an interview on local radio.
Jackie said her heart went out to Eden's parents.
“It’s tragic what happened to Eden and it’s shocking people are still doing this.
“Bullying is like a word for the playground and schoolyards.
"People like Nicole and Eden are tormented and tortured.
“It’s disgusting that people are still doing this and making victims’ lives hell,” she added. “They are old enough to know what they are doing but they don’t care.”
In a moving interview with Northern Sound FM yesterday, Eden's dad Raymond described how his teenage son had subjected horrific bullying in school.
He was subjected to regular physical attacks - including having his head shoved down a toilet - as well as being abused on social media.
sundayworld.com, Jackie told parents that there is now legal support for teenagers who are being targeted.
She said that since the new anti-bullying law was enacted in February “anyone that has been (bringing complaints of bullying to the gardai) are telling me the guards are saying we’re going to investigate that under Coco’s Law.
“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.”
Nicole Fox Fenlon died in January 2018.
Jackie has said Nicole had been suffering from persistent online abuse since the age of 18.
The bullying had continued even after Nicole had tried to take her own life in 2016. Nicole was affectionately known as Coco to friends and family.
Jackie said it was important for people to know that there is a law there now to protect people from bullying and harassment.
“More and more people are becoming aware of Coco’s Law and now people are going in and saying that they want this investigated under the law,” she said.
“The law is there and people are using it.”
The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill also, referred to as “Coco’s Law”, was passed by President Michael D Higgins on the 28th of December 2020.
Coco's Law outlaws a wide range of offences including online abuse, cyber-bullying and image-based abuse.
When it was enacted on February 10th this year, it created new offences which criminalise the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
The legislation carries penalties of up to seven years in prison.
However, Jackie still gives talk up and down the country to make people aware that the law is out there.
“I actually had a talk with the guards in Tralee and Limerick where they came together and asked me to come down and educate them about Coco’s Law.
“I do a lot of school talks now and community guards have asked could they sit in on the talks as well.
“I go around to all the schools, colleges and youth clubs to give talks and educate people about Coco’s law and let them know about it..
“I talk to adults too, to parents, and now I'm starting to go into businesses to talk about bullying in the workplace.
“I've been in every paper and on radio station and all over social media, campaigning for this for so long but there are still people around the country who don't know about it."
Yesterday, Eden Heaslip's parents described how they had tried to help their son cope with the bullying campaign.
Raymond told how, on a long drive to pick a piece of farm machinery, he took Eden with him so he could try to talk to him.
“I slowly edged into the conversation, and he talked to me for the whole way over. The stuff he told me, completely shocked me.
"I think the thing that hurt him the most was that they would just kick him all the time.
"He says: ‘Dad, there’s never one, it’s always three to four. I can handle one to one but it’s always three or four.'
“They were kicking him all the time, kicking him every week. (They were) kicking him, he’d fall to the ground, and they’d kick him on the ground.
“One of the things he couldn't understand when they were kicking him was, they’d tell him, ‘Go home to your own country, you black, Protestant bastard.'
“Eden’s mother is Roman Catholic and I’m Protestant and we brought our children up as Christians, to respect both sides of religion and respect neighbours and respect family.
"He was so hurt by that. He said that when he was on the ground he’d say, ‘I'm not a Protestant’.
“I tried to explain to him that these people are just very ignorant, that this is not the norm, but he found it very hard. He said it happened on a regular occurrence.”
Eden also opened up to his dad about how the bullies put his head down the toilet.
“And I said what do you mean?
"He says: ‘Dad, on a regular occurrence the group of lads would get me and stick my head down the toilet’.
"And he says, ‘never a clean one. They’d pick the dirtiest, sh*ttiest toilet to do it, and they’d stand and laugh'.
“There was other stuff, throwing food all the time. He’d be sitting at the table and there were lads throwing full apples across the room at him."