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Tragic suicide of head of Irish Democrats Abroad ---- Recalling Kate Fitzgerald, a woman who shone so brightly

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Kate Fitzgerald was a bright bubbly girl, just 25, a daughter of friends of mine who moved back to Ireland from California.

She was head of Irish Democrats Abroad and was doing a spectacular job with an organization that had had gone from strength to strength.

I spoke to the Irish Democrats Abroad a few years ago and well remember how well Kate managed the night, a vivacious and warm person who I was glad to see had everything in place, and delivered a great opening speech.

I met her dad Tom and her mother Sally that night after many years of not meeting with them.

They had settled back in Cork after Tom moved his family back home. His family and mine are next door neighbors in West Kerry for generations. I remember congratulating them on such a lovely young woman as Kate

Then just recently, an unbelievable tragedy struck.

Kate FitzGerald took her young life, only 25 years old, with a combination of pills and alcohol.

She took it after the Irish Times had agreed to accept a piece from her anonymously stating that she was recovering from a suicide attempt and outlining what was important when people were possibly suicidal.

Between the Times accepting it and it being published she had died.

The Times editor Peter Murtagh who took her piece has written a moving piece in The Irish Times about her death and the wonderful young woman he knew.

In the piece she wrote for him she referred to an earlier attempt and how friends had dissuaded her and she sought help and was admitted to hospital.

“I signed a form with an unknown level of alcohol and pills in my system,” she wrote. “For all intents and purposes, my admission was voluntary. In reality I was too mortified not to follow the wishes of my seemingly put-upon friends, not to survive for the sake of my job, and far too blinded by the smoke and mirrors of depression and self-inflicted harm to realize what I was doing.”

“I write in the hope that this grabs someone, anyone, and makes them think twice about what they may lose by not asking the question. Seek guidance. Seek insight. For when you ask a question – a true question – only then can you receive an answer. And answers.”

In school Kate was bullied, mainly because she stood out with her American accent. Despite that she went on to a highly successful career in public relations and latterly as head of Democrats Abroad where she became a familiar media figure.

As Murtagh wrote: "But the very qualities that made Kate special might also have marked her out in a manner not to her advantage. The bright kid with the American accent was bullied.

“She was tough,” says Sally, “but not as tough as we thought. She had her own style. She stood out. She was single-minded, knew what she was about, what she wanted.”

“She loved the adrenalin of being head of Democrats Abroad,” says her mother Sally. “She was so stylish; she was in PR, she knew how to present herself,” says Tom.

But under the surface all was not well.

Tom says: “I think she felt in over her head. I think she was unable to cope with the value system that often exists in journalism and PR. She was hooked on the adrenalin of power, the pressure, the deadlines – but, you know, it was all too much for her.”

On her Facebook page there was a host of well wishers, distraught by the news “Such a loss of a beautiful, smart and inspirational girl. In even a short time, she made a huge impact,” wrote Laura.

“Kate was a truly radiant personality. The world is a lesser place without her,” wrote Pat Lewis.

“I feel so incredibly privileged to have known Kate, to have tried to be as knowledgeable and as passionate and as damn good a dancer as she was,” wrote Alan.

Kate’s ashes were scattered at Sea Ranch, a holiday resort in Sonoma County, in Northern California, a place she knew and loved. “She’s there now with the whales and California sea lions,” says Tom.

And we have an abiding memory of a wonderful girl, whose life ended all too soon and so tragically.

May she rest in peace.

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