FRIENDS of Big Brother star Glen Coroner told last night of his hidden heartache over the tragic deaths of some of his closest friends.
At least three of them have committed suicide in the past few years and an astonishing 20 or so more youths Spiral grew up with in north Dublin’s Finglas West area have also taken their lives.
One is believed to be 32-year-old Martin Prendergast, who fell from a nine-story tower block in nearby Ballymun.
Spiral’s home town – which has a high rate of unemployment – has recorded more than 30 suicides in the past year and tops the tables in Ireland – with drugs, unemployment and a lack of opportunities being blamed.
As a result the clean-living DJ – who entered the Big Brother “house next door” on Friday night – has thrown his weight behind a community project to help tackle the rising problem if youth suicides in Finglas West.
Local community worker Jenny Harris, 32, said last night: “It will be on his mind while he’s in the house.
“I know like a lot of us in Finglas, he has been badly affected by the suicides. It’s a really worrying problem in the area and it is getting worse with at least one-a-week.
“It’s not just drugs, it’s the general sense of hopelessness young people feel growing up in the area.
“If you asked Spiral himself he would tell you that he knew most of the people who have died, either gone to school with them or grew up with them.
“I know that out of the seven or eight people who committed suicide in the past few months, he would have known two of them really well.”
Another pal, Stephen Browne, from Finglas’ Music Box record store said: “He wants to do what he can and the fact that he is the Big Brother house not only draws attention to Finglas, but also gives him the chance to promote what his community wants to do about the problem.
“He knew a fair number of the youths who have killed them selves in recent years.
“It’s what has moved him to want to get involved in doing something to help.
“Despite his being a DJ and all that people might think of a lifestyle he should be leading, he is not into the drugs scene at all and is instead a very intelligent and determined guy who has a heart of gold and how really cares about what happens to his friends,”
Harris added: “Because of his clean-living lifestyle and the fact that not only is he a working DJ, but he’s also on a national TV show, marks him out as a good role model for the youngsters.
“The shocking thing is that because suicide is now so commonplace in the area, people are no longer shocked.”
The World Health Organisation recently released figures that put Ireland near the top of the league for suicide rates among 15-25-year-olds.
It noted that 1 in 3 deaths in that age group was from suicide – above rates for deaths in the same age group caused by cancer or road deaths.
About three weeks ago, Coroner – also known as DJ “Spiral” – attended a meeting in a Finglas West field with about 400 other friends and family of suicide victims to set up a local initiative to tackle to problem.
Brown said: “He is one of the people who is heavily involved in this and when he gets out of the house is going to be giving away free DJ-ing lessons to youths around here.”
One of the people Spiral – who is vehemently anti-drugs – is believed to have been close to was Prendergast, from Cappagh Drive, Finglas.
The heroin user downed a massive coctail of drugs before falling from a nine-story tower block of flats in Ballymun in 2004.
Prendergast’s brother Joseph said: “He had a lot of friends that had died from suicide and he said how would they go off and do what they do and leave the world behind them.”
His body was found a short distance from the lift shaft of the block of flats on Sillogue Road, in the city’s Ballymun area on October 18, 2004 by a passerby on their way to work.
An inquest – which recorded an open verdict – in January this year heard that as well as traces of heroin and methadone, quantities of cocaine, amphetamines and sedative drugs were found in his blood.
Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said in January: “He really had a combination of drugs in his system.
“I am not avoiding the question of possible suicide but I am not able to bring in a verdict here.”
Spiral was one of five new housemates joining the hit Channel Four show.
He recently released a rap single about what it’s like to grow up in Finglas which made the Irish Top 50 singles chart and is one of a number of releases the 22-year-old has planned when he eventually leaves the Big Brother house.
Before going in he confidently predicted he would be “the star of the show”.
A strict teetotal who still lives with his parents Tomas and Mary, he also said: “I want to prove you don’t need drink in life to have a good time.”
Sure enough, he was seen on Friday night drinking from a champagne glass his favourite tipple – Lucozade.
Brown, who has known him for the past four or so years, said: “All he ever drinks when he goes out is Lucozade.
“And it’s hilarious, because he is usually the first in the dance floor and even though he’s only drinking Lucozade, he will invariably appear as if he’s drunk, but he’s not.
“He doesn’t drink alcohol, take drugs or smoke.
“As far as I know, he doesn’t have a girlfriend either.”
He added: “It’s not that he’s not interested or is short of attention.
“The girls love him. It’s just that he finds that when he goes out on a date, they get drunk while he stays sober.
“If he could find a teetotal girl, I’d say something would happen but all the girls he meets just want to get drunk and he’s not into that.”
The youngest of five, Spiral – who was sworn to secrecy about going on Big Brother – told pals he was going to America, where one of his brothers lives.
Brown, who also works in Spiral’s local pub The Drake Inn, said: “We had the telly on and everyone went mad when they saw him on the show.
“None of them had any idea he was going to be on it and they were all cheering and wishing him luck.
“He’s well-known and well-liked in the area and it’s just great to have a local lad on the box.”
Spiral’s Uncle Willie said last night: “I had no idea he was going on Big Brother but I’d say he’ll do very well.
“He’s a lively character, entertaining and funny.
“I don’t know how he will cope being on camera 24-hours-a-day but I’m sure he’ll be alright.”
He added: “I’ve never seen him have a drink because it just doesn’t appeal to him.
“From a very early age, he’s always just been into his music and I doubt the pressure of being in Big Brother will change that.
“He’s far too-focused and determined.”
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