A 17-year-old GAA player, from County Tyrone, was taken “advantage of and exploited” before taking his life over cyber bullying, a priest told his mourners.

Ronan Hughes, of Coalisland took his own life on June 5 after he was tricked into posting images online by cyber bullies.

At his funeral on Tuesday morning, attended by hundreds of mourners, Father Benny Fee told the congregation it was a “bitter, bitter privilege to welcome Ronan here to St Patrick's where he was no stranger."

He said "Ronan Hughes, dear people, did not take his own life, for the life of Ronan was taken from him.

"And somewhere in the big world, perhaps very far from Clonoe, there's a man, or a woman, or a gang, who are guilty of a terrible crime.

"And while I wish that faceless man or woman no ill, that man or woman who lured this child into a web that took his life, I do pray with all my heart that they may be caught and that they might be brought to justice for the pain and the agony they have brought to the Hughes family."

Police are investigating Hughes death but according to the BBC a crime is not suspected. However, they have issued advice to young people about the need to be careful when using social media sites.

The 17-year-old had told his parents and the police about his concerns over the online images last week.

UPDATE: Funeral for Co Tyrone teen bullied online http://t.co/YUIGstaQ2X pic.twitter.com/25rhSnUW0w

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Fr Fee added: "Ronan was young, he was beautiful. He had his whole life in front of him.

"But with youth comes its own fragility, and some people took advantage of his beauty and fragility.
"They exploited him and they broke him, and if they could do that to such a sensible fella as Ronan, they could do that to anyone."

Mid-Ulster District police commander Superintendent Mike Baird said “Our enquiries into this tragedy are continuing, however, it is understood the schoolboy took his own life after he had been tricked into posting images on a social networking site.”

Tributes to the young man have poured in online.

On Facebook his Gaelic football team, Clonoe O'Rahilly's, said “Ronan was a youth player, having played goalkeeper throughout his short youth career. He was a quiet and modest young lad who was popular among all players and coaches. His death has left a dark shadow hanging over our club."

St Joseph's Grammar head teacher, Geraldine Donnelly, published a statement on the school's website expressing sadness at the "untimely death of our dear pupil."

SDLP councillor Malachy Quinn told BBC Radio Ulster's “Good Morning Ulster” that Ronan "had everything to live for."

"For these people to bring somebody like that down to the point where they think they have no way out - you can't really imagine just what would go through a young person's mind for that to happen," he said.

Online safety expert Wayne Denner told the BBC that this sad case showed the impact that technology can have and the challenges it can bring.

Denner said “Mistakes are going to be made, but we need to educate [young people] on how to take control of their online reputation and how to use social media and the internet to their advantage, not to their disadvantage.”

He continued “Don't connect with people you don't know, know how to setup your privacy settings, and fundamentally, don't post anything online that you're not happy with going on a global billboard.

"Effectively, once it makes its way online it's very difficult to take it down."

Cyber bullying is a global problem. In the United States a recent National Crime Victimization Survey, in 2013, estimated that 2.2 million students in the US alone experience cyber bullying in 2011.

This survey showed that:

- 71.9% reported being cyber bullied once or twice in the school year

- 19.6% reported once or twice a month

- 5.3% reported once or twice a week

- 3.1% reported almost everyday

A spokeswoman for Childline, in Northern Ireland, said "Cyber-bullying is a huge concern and the 24-hour nature of the internet means they can feel like there's no escape.

"We must ensure young people have the confidence to speak out against this abuse, so that they don't feel isolated and without anywhere to turn.”

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