Condolences to the Family of Noah Donohoe

Matter of the Day – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:30 am on 30th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 10:30 am, 30th June 2020

Mr John O'Dowd has been given leave to make a statement of condolence to the family of Noah Donohoe, which fulfils the criteria set out in Standing Order 24. Other Members who wish to be called should rise in their place and continue to do so. All Members who are called will have up to three minutes to speak on the subject. I remind Members that I will not take any points of order on this or any other matter until this item of business is finished.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Thank you to the House for giving Members the opportunity to express their condolences on the death of young Noah Donohoe and to pass on their condolences to his mother, Fiona.

When news started to come through that a young boy was missing in north Belfast, people hoped that it would end up OK and that the young lad would be found, and our hopes and prayers were with him and his family. In a period when there has been so much bad news, sadness and grief in our community, Noah going missing caught people's attention, and the tragedy that unfurled before us is the nightmare of every parent. I am a parent of a young boy who is around the same age as Noah, and we all fear for their safety. We give them the freedom and the opportunities to go out and live their lives as best they can, but every parent fears that the circumstances that young Noah found himself in will come to their door. That is part of the reason why we have all taken a step back and had Noah in our thoughts since the announcement of him going missing and since the tragedy of his remains being found.

Noah's mother said that he would "change the world", and there is little doubt that he has changed all our worlds. Those photographs of him that beam out of our television screens and from the front of newspapers will be embedded in our minds forever. That infectious smile, that glint in his eye and the tributes paid to him by his friends, his school and particularly by his mother will live with us for a very long time.

I did not know Noah or his family, but it is only right and proper that the Assembly stops, takes a moment, and pays tribute to him and his parents. I also pay tribute to the emergency services, the search and rescue teams and all sections of the community who came together to help in the search for Noah. My thoughts and prayers are with them and with Noah's family.

With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I will mention a young boy who lost his life over the weekend in my constituency. Young Luke Lawson, a year 8 student at Lismore, died tragically over the weekend. Again, another nightmare for any parent. Our thoughts and prayers are with Luke's family as well. Thank you.

Photo of William Humphrey William Humphrey DUP

On behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party, I extend our deepest sympathy to Noah's mother, Fiona, and the family circle. May God bless and sustain them in the days ahead. I also extend our sympathy to the principal, Dr Paul McBride, and the school family of St Malachy's College on the Antrim Road where Noah was a pupil.

This is a desperately sad situation. A 14-year-old boy, in the prime of his youth, taken from us far too soon. Noah Donohoe's disappearance united an, at times, fractured community in north Belfast. The many hundreds of volunteers who joined the search across the lower part of the constituency was a testament to that. They came from across the community and, indeed, some came from across the country, with the one aim of finding Noah and bringing him home safely to his mother and family. Sadly, on Saturday, we received the sad news that Noah had been found and his life had ended. It was the news that all of us feared, and none of us wanted to hear. The outpouring of grief was exemplified on Sunday evening at two services, one at Skegoneill and another on the Antrim Road outside his school, which ,again, united the community.

Noah was very clearly a special young man and has left a huge gap in the life of his family, his school and his school friends. He will never be forgotten. He has a special place in the minds and now in the lifeblood of north Belfast and its people. They have united in grief as they united in the search to find him.

I, too, join in the thanks to the emergency services. In particular, I thank Superintendent Muir Clark, who led the team in such a professional way, and all the officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland for how they conducted themselves in such a committed, professional and dedicated way. I also thank Sean McCarry, the regional commander of the Community Rescue Service. Through the week, I spoke to Sean, and I spoke to him again on Sunday evening to thank him and his volunteers. They are all volunteers, and they came at all times of the day to search for Noah. They gave leadership. The community also gave leadership — as I said, at times, it is fractured — with many hundreds of people coming together. I joined the search for two evenings last week, and hundreds of people turned up at the Hubb. I want to thank the Hubb — Jim Crothers and his team — for the leadership that they gave. I also thank two of my party colleagues, Pastor Brian Madden and Councillor Dean McCullough, for their exemplary conduct and the role that they played.

Many people joined the search. It is a credit to that community and our city. I am deeply sorry about the outcome. I ask everyone to remember in prayer Noah's mother, his family and school friends in the days ahead. Thank you.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

No words that we say today will console Fiona Donohoe and Noah's family. The loss that they have suffered is simply unimaginable. John O'Dowd spoke eloquently about the fear that was struck into all parents and people who look after young people when they saw the news about Noah's disappearance. William Humphrey said, correctly, that everyone across this place longed for a positive outcome in the search for Noah. Indeed, people from across Belfast and across Northern Ireland went to north Belfast to look for Noah. I, too, pay tribute to the stellar work of the police and rescue services and to the work, commitment and sheer dedication of people from right across the community — people of different persuasions and none — who simply wanted to find a glorious, lost young boy and bring him home to his mother. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and all of us in this Chamber and across the community are devastated by the news that we heard on Saturday. Our devastation pales in comparison, however, to the suffering that is bring experienced by Noah's mother, Fiona, and her broader family. We can say that our hearts go out to them, but surely that can hardly capture the enormity of the sorrow that we all feel on their behalf.

Noah and his mother were constituents in South Belfast. As I say, the entire community across Belfast and across Northern Ireland is thinking about them now.

William Humphrey said, correctly, that Noah will not be forgotten, and we can be sure of that. For those of us who looked at the beautiful words that were shared by the headmaster of his former school, St Malachy's, that pay testament to his leadership, his love of basketball, his commitment to music and his kindness, it is only more painful and sad to think of the life that we have lost. The motto of St Malachy's is "Gloria ab Intus", which, translated, means, "Glory from within". We can hope that some of the glory that clearly was contained within Noah during his short life remains and consoles Fiona Donohoe and her family in the years ahead.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

I pass on the sympathy, regret and prayers of the Ulster Unionist Party, and on my behalf as a father. There is no doubt, however, that through this tragedy you do not need to be a parent to feel the pain of that family and to feel the pain of the community, which is for the loss of a young life all too soon.

I commend the Members who have spoken so far. What you get is a real sense of loss and of the tragedy that it is. There will be no more important issue that we talk about here today, regardless of the topic.

As Mr O'Toole rightly pointed out, Noah has been painted by his teachers, his friends, his peers and his family as a uniquely talented young man. Mr O'Dowd pointed out his infectious smile. He was a beautiful young man, and I think that every one of us, having looked at the photographs of him, listened to this story and followed the proceedings, will have been brought to tears, or near to tears, at times. When you put yourself in the shoes of Fiona his mother and his wider and extended family, I cannot think of a worse fear as a parent that you could be faced with than the loss of your child.

Our thoughts are with his school and with his family predominantly, but, as was rightly pointed out by Mr Humphrey, a community mobilised to search and to try to attain a miracle, where Noah would be found alive and well and returned to his family. As was rightly pointed out, the emergency services and the voluntary services provided much of the search resource and expertise. I can only say that if you have not been part of something like that, looking for someone who is lost is something that you do with fear and a knot in your stomach. The bigger part of you wants to find the person alive, but there is another part of you that does not want to find something tragic. You do it out of a sense of it being necessary to do in order to bring release and closure to the family or to achieve that miracle that we all prayed for. It is with regret that that miracle did not happen in the way that we know that miracles can. Noah himself was a miracle, however. Noah was a treasure to his family. He is the pride of his family, and that will never be lost. Look at the lives that he touched, through his multiple skills, which Mr O'Toole pointed out: his sporting prowess, his musical ability and his smile. He touched lives both in life and in death.

Mr Deputy Speaker, we will remember Noah Donohoe with absolute pride, and we thank his mother and his family for how they have allowed us to be part of his story.

Photo of Paula Bradshaw Paula Bradshaw Alliance 10:45 am, 30th June 2020

Thank you to Mr O'Dowd for proposing the Matter of the Day and giving us the space to express our sympathies. On behalf of the Alliance Party and the people of South Belfast, whom I represent, I express my sincerest sympathies to Noah's family and friends. We all hoped and prayed that this precious boy would come home to his loving mother, Fiona, and to his wider family circle. I hope that she finds the strength to get through these very dark days with their love and knowing that everyone across the country is thinking about them. It is very clear that he was a very special boy who was very energetic and full of life, and it just made it all the sadder when we heard the news on Saturday morning. Like others, I pay tribute to the sterling work of the PSNI, other rescue service providers and the wider community. May Noah rest in peace. Thank you.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

The loss of a child at any time is heartbreaking. There are Members of the House who have been in that position through the loss of children or grandchildren, and many of us have not, but I do not think that there is a single member of this society who could not and should not have been touched by the circumstances that befell young Noah and led to his death. That, of course, has piled on the agony for the family, and I have no doubt that they are in the thoughts and prayers, as they ought to be, of all of us.

I join and endorse the comments that have been made in expressing, for what it is worth, bearing in mind the deep, dark place where she must be, the sympathy of us all to Noah's mother, his wider family, his school community, who will feel this loss very severely, and to all his friends.

I join in saluting the tremendous efforts of the emergency services and the huge outpouring through community effort. I commend all and join with all in regretting that the outcome was sadly as it was. I trust that that family will find the grace and the comfort that they so desperately need.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

I offer my condolences and sympathy to the family, friends and those who knew Noah Donohoe. What happened to the young man was truly tragic and heartbreaking. I extend my condolences on behalf of People Before Profit to everybody who knew him and were related to him.

It is hard to imagine the heartache that the community is feeling after this tragic news. That is over last week, today and over the next few weeks, and we offer our sympathy and thoughts to them. Sadly, it seems to be too often that the Community Rescue Service has to carry out actions like this, particularly in north Belfast and that part of our city, but we want to thank them, as others have, for their work and efforts.

This young man had clearly touched the hearts of many people, and that was evidenced by the many heartfelt tributes that were paid to him online. It was also evidenced by the many people who came out to search for young Noah, with hundreds of people from all backgrounds and communities, right across Belfast and the North more generally. That spirit and community solidarity will be important for people to attempt to try to come to terms with this tragic event and grieve. We offer our sympathies. Thank you.

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I, too, echo the words that have been shared in the House by colleagues. Quite simply, there are no words that could ever comfort Fiona, her sisters Shona and Niamh, Noah's uncles Gearoid and Ronan, his granny, Margot, and his grandfather, Gerry, during this very difficult time. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain, worry, stress and anxiety that they suffered in the days prior to finding Noah. There are no words for such a tremendous and tragic loss of young life.

Noah's family are originally from Strabane. Many members of his wider family remain there. As a town and community, many gathered there over the weekend to pay tribute to the family, to offer our prayers, condolences or thoughts and to share in the family's grief at what is a very, very difficult time. Over the last few days, we have all got to know Noah a little bit better from the posts shared on social media; the videos of him cooking, playing musical instruments and sport and that infectious smile. His caring nature shines through in abundance in all those social media posts. There has been an incredible outpouring of grief to support Fiona and her family at this incredibly difficult time. The search for Noah united communities. I know that the prayers of our entire society, from one end of this island to the other, will be with Fiona in the days ahead.

Many young people across the island have lost their life in recent months. I pay tribute to the loss of young life in my colleague Dolores Kelly's constituency and in my constituency, where Dean McElwee tragically lost his life at the weekend. As Jim Allister rightly said, the pain of losing a young person is unimaginable and unbearable for many. My thoughts and prayers, and those of my SDLP colleagues, are with Fiona, her family and all those who are going through this tremendously difficult time.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

On behalf of the Green Party, I want to take this opportunity to pass our sincere condolences to Fiona, Noah's mum, his family and his circle of friends. It was incredibly tragic to wake up on Saturday to the tragic news that it was Noah's body that had been found. Not many people could even begin to imagine how this has affected his mum. As we just heard from the last Member who spoke, so much of Noah's life has been shared on social media. The clearest thing for me was how close he was to his mum and what a strong and warm relationship they had.

I know that they have not long moved to the Ormeau Road. If there is anything that I can say today to try to offer just a tiny piece of comfort, it is to let Fiona and the family know that the Ormeau Road community cares about what has happened and wants to do all that it can to try to share in their grief and support them through the unimaginable times ahead in dealing with the tragedy of losing such a beautiful boy in such horrific circumstances.

I thank Mr O'Dowd for bringing this to the Chamber today and wish Fiona and her family every strength and courage to get through what will be horrific sadness in the time ahead.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

That concludes Members' contributions on this sad matter.