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National hero Donal Walsh loses battle with cancer - teen's optimism and courage inspired thousands

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Donal Walsh: Irish teen dies, 16, after  four year cancer battle
Donal Walsh: Irish teen dies, 16, after
four year cancer battle

Kerry teenager Dónal Walsh, whose optimism and courage in the face of a terminal cancer diagnosis saw him labelled a 'national hero', died last night aged 16.

Tributes from those inspired by Walsh's bravery have already flooded in. A Facebook page set up in his honour has already received almost 100,000 likes.

Fr Francis Nolan, the priest of Walsh's parish, called the rugby-crazed teen an 'inspiration' to those in Kerry and beyond.

His father said that his son was "at peace now" and that his long pain and suffering was now over.

The self-effacing Walsh had said that he resented the personal attention which had surrounded him ever since a letter decrying youth suicide had been published in a national newspaper, and only wanted to make whatever difference he could in helping other young people see their problems in perspective.

A series of appearances on other radio and television programmes soon followed, with Walsh eager to get across his message that suicide was never an answer, and outspokenly keen to emphasize that he had little sympathy with those who chose that option.

"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," he was quoted as saying.

"There are always options."

His message is thought to have resonated widely in an island that still has among the highest rates of young, male, suicide in the developed, Western world.

Walsh's family say that the teenager, who counted sporting starts among his friends and acquaintances, had received a large amount of correspondence after his appearance on the Saturday Night Show thanking him for providing them hope in their own struggle with mental illness.

He said that the illness, and its certain end, never fazed him, but that he was concerned how his family would fare after their loss.

A website dedicated to providing advice and support to suicidal youth reported a four-fold increase in traffic, according to its spokesman.

The Kerry teen had suffered with cancer since 12, and had already exceeded his medics' expectations after surviving beyond Christmas.

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said she had contacted Walsh to record an anti-suicide video which will be shown in secondary schools across the country.

She described the young lad as "articulate" and unusually "brave" for someone his age. He was a rugby fanatic who dreamed of playing with Munster.

He received a bravery award from civic authorities in Kerry last year and is believed to have raised in excess of €50,000 for cancer facilities in Dublin.

Dónal's funeral takes place in Kerry this Wednesday.

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