Counselling offered to children who witnessed murder

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th December 2018''The scene on the Glen Road in west Belfast where Jim Donegan, aged in his 40s, was shot dead on Tuesday afternoon as he sat waiting in his car to pick up his son from St Mary�"s Christian Brother�"s Grammar School.''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th December 2018''The scene on the Glen Road in west Belfast where Jim Donegan, aged in his 40s, was shot dead on Tuesday afternoon as he sat waiting in his car to pick up his son from St Mary�"s Christian Brother�"s Grammar School.''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Children who witnessed Tuesday’s fatal shooting outside a west Belfast school are being offered counselling to help them cope with the traumatic experience.

Jim Donegan was shot dead by a lone gunman as he waited outside St Mary’s Grammar School on the Glen Road to pick up his son.

The incident happened as children were getting ready to leave at around 3.15pm, although the school’s acting principal has revealed some children were already out and in the vicinity of the shooting.

Fiona Crookes, interim principal of the school, told BBC Radio Ulster: “[Some of the boys] were there at that particular time.

“They had been released a little bit early because their teacher has to be in their station so they are allowed to go a few minutes early.”

She added: “When we got some names [of the boys who could have witnessed the murder] I contacted their parents and let them know about the counselling and support services that will be in place.”

Pupils will be offered counselling when the school reopens today.

Mrs Crookes told how staff had used coats to cover the windows so pupils could not see the aftermath of the murder.

“Because there was no cordon in place at that time some of our boys had to walk past the scene so our primary concern was they wouldn’t see what we had to see.

“We took off coats, cardigans, things like that and put them around windows.”

Mrs Crookes said that Mr Donegan’s 13-year-old son became the school’s “priority”. “We got him, we brought him back to school and the police let his mum through the cordon. His poor wee face to be told that was shocking.”

Teachers came in for praise following the shooting from SDLP councillor Tim Attwood, whose children attend one of the nearby schools.

He said: “I was at the scene at about four (on Tuesday) and the teachers did a great job in supporting those kids who were extremely traumatised by what happened.

“There were parents arriving who were anxious about their kids, and there were relatives arriving obviously in a very distressed state after hearing their loved one had been murdered.

“It was a very difficult moment for the staff of the schools but the professionalism they showed, and the compassion for the kids, was fully demonstrated.”