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The phrase; "Boys have cooties" was always circulated when I was a child, mainly from other kids who watched way too much American television. In my four months of living in a Berkeley fraternity house among college-aged American boys (they 100 percent couldn't be called men, they needed full-time agony aunts), I learned numerous life lessons whether I wanted to or not. Mainly that personal hygiene and a basic understanding of women are deeply lacking, and there's nothing I can do to change either of those things. Bear in mind that this frat house is just one of dozens in Berkeley alone, and that sarcasm will be heavily used in this article. I won't be naming any names (though I'd love to) and many frat boys I met were positively lovely. It was just the few that needed basic lectures about toxic masculinity and domestic chores that will be targeted by my literary wrath.


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1. If they make eye contact with you, they're most likely drunk or high and have obtained a mysterious confidence.

Waking up in the morning and emerging through the jungle of empty beer bottles and fast food takeaway boxes, if you make it to the disgusting kitchen and run into a boy, he'll scutter away into the darkness or refuse to look you in the eye. Whether we'd be standing only centimetres apart while frying off eggs or toasting bread, chances are high that you won't be addressed. They're probably terrified of you, or don't know how to communicate with a woman without downing a keg of beer first.

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Many of these boys are spectacularly wealthy (well, their families are.) You need to have some connection to cash to get into college in the USA, usually but not always of course. Many of these boys also went to prep schools, with other boys surrounding them. Their only opportunity to talk to women often is on nights out in clubs or bars, and the heteronormativity is honestly unavoidable. I made some great friends while living in Berkeley, but never felt entirely safe unless there was a female friend or just a regular ol' female around. Boys have no idea the lengths that women have to go to in order to feel safe, just walking down the street. Especially in a strange city without your family.


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2. The issue of consent is a major epidemic across US college campuses

Men in America often objectify women, and one of the first things I noticed about our frat house when we moved in was the consistent posters regarding consent. The alarming feeling that only an incident would spur on the sudden mass influx of posters plagued me for a lot of my trip, and Irish women who also lived in the house were all very safe. The rumours about US college campuses lacking safety didn't help, as well as the security guards who insisted on escorting us around the campus at night. According to AAU Campus Climate Surveys (2015), 23.1 percent of female undergraduates, 5.4 percent of male undergraduates, and 24.1 percent of TGQN (trans, gender-non conforming, queer) undergraduates reported being sexually assaulted since starting college. Among graduate students and professionals, the estimates were 8.8 percent female, 2.2 percent male, and 15.5 percent TGQN. Sexual violence is far more prevalent in colleges, compared to other crimes. RAINN claim that only 20 percent of female student victims, aged between 18-and 24, report sexual violence to law enforcement. Frat houses are yet more spaces where women aren't always protected.

3. Their mums have cleaned up after them and spoiled them silly since they emerged from the womb

The boys of our frat house made a 'chore list' for the Irish students alone, and overcharged us absurdly for rent. They essentially exploited us; we paid them handsomely for gross accommodation while they lived there for free, and they spent the money on drugs and then drove to In 'N' Out. They were incapable of cleaning up after themselves, so old food and cooking tools were stacked up, while dirty dishes were consistently in a Mount Everest pile up in the sink. I learned of new smells I never thought existed, thanks to mould and bacteria. I'm convinced that I'm immune to many diseases because of living there. Boys have an astounding ability to leave a mess rotting the place for days, if not months, and play chicken with you until you can't take it anymore and give in. I have the distinct memory of cleaning out green mould from our fridge for three hours and inhaling Stranger Things 'Upside Down' like materials. A gas mask would have come in handy. They also don't know that sheets are meant to be changed.

4. Become Bear Grylls overnight if you have a rodent problem

We had numerous Snow White-esque pets in our abode, such as a Skunk (we named him Larry), ferrets under the floorboards and even bed bugs. We even had to trap a bed bug (insanely difficult task) in order to show our landlord, in order to get a $50 reduction in rent. Yes, just $50. He never actually gave us that reduction in the end…

The point is; Get a thick skin for bugs and unwanted pets. You will suddenly turn into a complete Lara Croft badass and will learn to live amongst nature.

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5. Certain toxic, alien practices surrounding fraternity houses and sororities continue to exist

During the weeks before college actually begins, 'Rush' occurs. This is basically where you semi-audition to be in a frat house or sorority, with some houses being significantly more difficult to infiltrate than others. It becomes a common occurrence to see boys with their shirts off and abs painstakingly arranged in a six-pack wandering around screaming; "ALPHA KAPPA LAMBA 'TIL I DIE, BRO!'. They may not be entirely made up of brain cells, but just ignore them. Sorority girls will walk around in matching outfits and sky-high heels, screeching chants that sound like sirens to you. Music will be blasting from 16 different speakers, signs and balloons will line the street. Every house puts the maximum amount of effort in when it comes to attracting the most attention, and future members. The 'hazing' rituals still exist too. One rule which infuriated our entire group was that frat houses could throw parties in Berkeley, but sororities couldn't. The rule had never been changed, and it was part of the college campus law now. 

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6. They will clog every toilet in existence

In Berkeley, at least, weed was absolutely everywhere. You couldn't make coffee in the morning before scraping your hungover self into work without a frat boy shoving a bong in your face.

From edibles to hemp products to the grass plant itself; marijuana is unavoidable in the area. What are the results of a house full of boys smoking weed until they KO? The digestive system going into meltdown. Who suffers from this surprising turn of events? Normally women, who actually need to use the toilet more often than most boys due to sanitary needs etc. They also need to sit on the toilet seat constantly.

There were four bathrooms in the sizeable fraternity house. You would assume that at least one toilet was always available to use, then. How wrong you are. All four toilets were consistently blocked thanks to the bowel movements of 15 boys, all permanently high. Basic human hygiene went out of the window in days from when I arrived, and I began using public bathrooms in the area to just experience what a regular toilet is meant to be like. Never take your pristine white bathroom for granted, ladies. Some day, it could be compromised by Snoop Dogg & Co. 

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7. You will never take privacy for granted again

Sharing a house with 25 people at the same time can make it extremely difficult to get any time alone. You're probably sharing a room with at least one person, and even small errands like trying to do laundry can take hours with everyone queueing up.

Many of us don't enjoy the feeling of being alone, but if you're accustomed to having your own room as I was (my identical twin and I fought viciously over bunk-beds so our parents separated us) then sharing that space can be a huge shock. Arguments over whose side of the room is messier occurred daily, and clothes went missing all the time. Random strangers would walk into our house, seeing as only the house manager had a lock on his door, so every room was fair game. The house itself was never locked, and it became difficult to know who was one of your frat boys and who was a randomer.

This made privacy a long-lost friend who you ached to see once again, for however short a time. Going to the bathroom or showering was blissful even for those few moments alone. Despite the grubbiness of the bathrooms themselves…(Hello, Cif? Cillit Bang? Lost but not forgotten.)

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8. Someone will eat your food, and you will be fuming over it

You could do a full grocery shop in Trader Joe's down the road and within minutes, hungover boys or high boys who have the munchies will have annihilated your entire snack stash. Most people tried to spend as little money on food as physically possible, either by stealing food from wherever they worked or by stealing food from the house. Now, I took the odd slice of bread or splash of milk for my (Barry's) tea, but that was all. I advise you to create your own bunker of sorts, where you hide all your treats and actually decent-tasting food from everyone else in the house.

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Never tell anyone, not even your closest friend, where it is. Or else have a password so you can know who to trust. Surviving in a frat house takes buckets of crisps and dip, microwave popcorn, Cadbury's chocolate and pot noodles. Trust me.

9. American's can't drink legally until the age of 21, and they can't handle it

One of the reasons why frat houses are so obsessed with drugs in California is that it's easier to get them, rather than getting their fake IDs rejected while trying to score alcohol. When they DO manage to get booze, boy are they bad at handling it. Mainly due to the insane levels of peer pressure from the Bro Mob. If you told one of them during a game of Beer Pong that he had to poison himself with weed killer then do a backflip in front of a sorority house naked, they'd probably do it. It was toxic as f*ck. We went on a bar crawl with our house manager for his 21st birthday (we thought he was 30-years-old, so that was a shock…) and he drank a bottle of hot sauce and tequila and vomited bright orange puke down the stairs of the bar, and all of us were then banned. There were only two bars in town, so it was a low blow. While they can handle their weed, when it comes to binge drinking there's nobody like an Irish person to put them in their place. 

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10. You'll miss Ireland more than you expected

From basic teabags and bread that isn't made entirely of sugar to Irish carveries and homemade meals, there's a lot that you'll miss about the Emerald Isle. Finally having food that isn't processed, being able to afford a meal again, being around people who understand sarcasm and whose country isn't politically dangerous and immoral will be blissful. Seeing proper forestland and greenery is often hard in America, due to the difference in climate. Flying back and seeing the patchwork field of bright green fields, you'll forget all about the dried up desert backyard of the frat house. Also having your own room again will bring tears of gratitude to your eyes, if you can grab one. 

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The six students who lives were tragically lost in the Berkeley balcony collapse of 2015 have been honoured in a special ceremony.

Niccolai ‘Nick’ Schuster, Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller and Ashley Donohoe were remembered at the service in California.

A memorial plaque was unveiled in their honour, which featured a quote from James Joyce: “They lived and laughed and loved and left.”

The plaque reads:

“Berkeley, named after an Irish philosopher, will forever remember the six young adults from America and Ireland, guests in this city, who tragically died near this spot in a balcony collapse at 2020 Kittredge Street early in the morning of June 16, 2015.

“Here, the families of those who passed and the community of Berkeley have joined hands to establish a permanent memorial.”

The families of the six students attended the moving service. They recently marked the third anniversary of the horrifying accident on June 16.

Speaking of the tragedy, Ireland’s Ambassador to the USA, Daniel Mulhall said: “The Berkeley balcony collapse of June 2015 was a terrible tragedy and one which had an enormous effect on Ireland. The depth of grief, shock and sorrow was immense – six young lives so tragically and prematurely ended and serious injury inflicted on so many.”

“I would like to pay tribute to the first responders, medical staff and our wonderful Irish community who provided such fulsome support for everyone affected, especially the young people and the families directly involved,” he added.



The families of five Irish students and one Irish-American student, who died following the collapse of a balcony in the Blackrock Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley California, have reached a settlement.

The tragedy, which sent shockwaves throughout Ireland in June 2015, resulted in the deaths of Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh, and Olivia Burke, and Olivia's Irish-American cousin Ashley Donohoe.

This week, the families of the deceased have reached a settlement, and while the amount itself will remain confidential, the fact that a settlement has been reached will not.

Indeed, law firm, Rains Lucia Stern, have confirmed that the parties are free to discuss the circumstances surrounding their childrens' untimely deaths.

Releasing a statement, Ashley's family have reiterated their mission in the wake of their daughter's death.

"Nothing will stop us from continuing our fight to have changes made to the California building codes and regulations to require regular inspections by qualified people, proper design and use of proper construction materials, and a ban on ‘Secret Settlements’ that allow

This settlement has been reached with the property managers and owners of the apartment complex.

In May of this year, another settlement was reached with the companies that designed and built the building.



A survivor's of last summer's Berkeley tragedy has addressed a court in Sacramento, and spoke of the effect the devastating incident has had on her in an effort to ensure the passing of a bill which forces greater transparency among building contractors with poor safety records.

22-year-old Aoife Beary was celebrating her 21st birthday while on J1 in California when six party-goers – who had congregated on an apartment balcony – lost their lives after the balcony in Library Gardens collapsed.

Aoife, who also sustained catastrophic injuries during the incident on June 16th, told a public hearing that her life has been forever altered as a result.

After introducing herself and thanking everyone present for the opportunity to speak, Aoife recalled the excitement she and her friends felt at the prospect of a summer in the United States.

While paying tribute to her friends, Aoife struggled to maintain her composure as she recalled the various other adventures they had embarked upon together since beginning university.

"I miss my friends so much. I have known them since we started school together at four years of age," Aoife told the hearing while attempting to hold back tears. "We had grown up together. And now my birthday will always be their anniversary."

Addressing the US state committee, Aoife expressed disbelief that a debate over the issue was even taking place, saying: "I cannot believe why you are even debating this bill. You should ensure that all balconies are scrutinised in this state to prevent this happening again."

It is understood that representatives of the construction industry at the hearing withdrew their opposition to the bill.

Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan and Lorcán Miller and Ms Burke's cousin, Irish-American Ashley Donohoe lost their lives last summer.

Video credit: Irish Independent



It's been five-and-a-half months since six Irish students lost their lives in the Berkeley balcony collapse.

Survivor Clodagh Cogley was one of seven friends seriously injured in the accident, but last night her family shared an extremely positive update about her health.

"Clodagh has now returned to university in Dublin," the post on the 21-year-old's GoFundMe page read.

"She resumed her studies initially while continuing to receive in-patient rehab hospital treatment.

"We're pleased to tell you that she's also now moved back into her family home."

Clodagh, who is a Psychology student at Trinity College Dublin, suffered a broken spine, broken knee and shoulder, two collapsed lungs, and five broken ribs in the fall.

"Solutions to adapt the family house are nearly completed so that she may resume a normal life," the post continued.

Clodagh herself posted to Facebook shortly after her accident to let friends, family and the public know how she was getting on.

"[T]he chances of me using my legs again are pretty bleak… Not the best odds but I'm moving to a great rehabilitation centre here in San Francisco for two months," she wrote.

"Who knows maybe legs have been holding me back all these years and I'll realise my talent for wheelchair basketball."

Since the accident, over €100,000 has been raised in Clodagh's honour to cover medical funds and the adaptation of her family home for wheelchair use.

Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh, Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke were all killed in the tragedy, which saw the balcony they were standing on in a Berkeley student apartment collapse.

The group had been celebrating the 21st birthday of Aoife Beary, one of the seven injured.


Yesterday, the family of Berkeley survivor Aoife Beary shared some amazing news on the Friends of Aoife Beary.

According to the Facebook post, Aoife is continuing to make some significant improvements in her recovery. 

The 21-year-old is now out of the high dependency unit and she is getting ready to begin rehabilitation in the facility she is being treated for brain injuries in. 

She still has some way to go in terms of rehabilitation "this will involve a daily schedule of physio, occupational and speech therapy at the Center, 6 days a week for the coming weeks" and her family will be helping her every step of the way.

Aoife is also joined by other survivors Clodagh Cogley, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters as they are all receiving treatment. 

Having spent the last 2 weeks in the high dependency unit, at last Aoife has started her rehabilitation programme at…

Posted by Friends of Aoife Beary on Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Following the balcony collapse on June 16th, Aoife and three other survivors have remained in the Santa Clara Valley medical centre. Other survivors Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn and Jack Halpin.  


For the past ten days since the terrible tragedy which occurred in Berkeley and led to the death of six young Irish students, communities up and down the country have come together to help those affected.

Now, a Dublin GAA club have banded together to gather support for one of their members.

Jack Halpin from Rathmines was one of the seven people dangerously injured during the balcony collapse. Medical staff in California have described his condition at the moment as ‘fair’. The 21-year old had just completed a commerce degree from UCD.

Jack is a member of the Templeogue GAA club and has been playing hurling and fooball with them since he was at under-age level. He’s been known to be a great player and lover of both sports and represented Dublin when he was a younger player.

The website ‘Judes for Jack’ was created by members of the club with the aim of raising funds to help those affected by the deadly accident in Berkeley.

Jack’s family are heavily involved with the club and coached several of the teams. A spokesperson for the club said that:

 “Communities throughout the country have thousands of Jack Halpins with hopes and dreams of a bright and shining future in career and sport and in love and friendship, unmarred by thoughts of tragedy and loss, such as that inflicted recently on those young lives in California.”

The fundraising website hopes to offer support for Jack and others as they recover from their injuries and they wish for “communities to show that none of us as individuals needs ever feel alone.”

The website reads:

“Jack, among others of his friends, has sustained serious injuries which will involve periods of hospitalisation and recuperation and recovery, which we hope will be timely and completely successful and will allow Jack to return, fully restored, to the bosom of his family and his people.”

The club have made a touching gesture at such a difficult time.



Just over a week after the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse that left six students dead, one of the survivors has taken to social media to share a truly inspirational message.

Writing on Facebook earlier today, 21-year-old Clodagh Cogley revealed that the chances of her walking again were "pretty bleak" but that she was determined to stay positive and to live her life to the fullest.

"The fall from the balcony left me with two collapsed lungs, a broken shoulder, a broken knee, five broken ribs and a broken spinal cord," she explained today. 

"Not the best odds but I'm moving to a great rehabilitation centre here in San Francisco for two months (it has dog therapy <3) and intend to give it everything I've got. Who knows maybe legs have been holding me back all these years and I'll realise my talent for wheelchair basketball."

Clodagh, who was one of seven who survived the fall but were left with serious injuries, said she will never take the little things for granted again and asked that others live their lives with the same attitude.

"The thing I'm taking from this tragedy is that life is short and I intend to honour those who died by living the happiest and most fulfilling life possible," she wrote in a moving tribute to her six fellow students who passed away last week. 

"Enjoy a good dance and the feeling of grass beneath your feet like it's the last time because in this crazy world you never know when it might be."

Clodagh's family was told she was lucky to be alive after the accident, and she could have fallen to her death had another student, Jack Halpin not grabbed her and broken her fall.

Jack is currently being treated for back injuries and two broken legs and is making slow but steady progress at the John Muir Medical Centre. 

21-year-olds Conor Flynn. Hannah Waters, Aoife Beary and Niall Murray all remain in hospital, with Sean Fahey given the green light this week to travel home to Ireland in the coming days.

The funerals of Niccolai Schuster and Olivia Burke took place in Dublin today, following a ceremony for Olivia's cousin Ashley Donohue in San Francisco on Saturday and the funerals of Eimear Walsh and Eoghan Culligan in Dublin yesterday.



The funeral is currently taking place in Foxrock of 21-year-old Olivia Burke.

The J1 visa holder died in Berkeley, California along with five others when a fourth-storey balcony they were standing on collapsed and fell more than 12metres to the ground.

Among the hundreds of mourners to turn out today is Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne, 25, better known to his millions of fans simply as Hozier.



Holding a guitar, he looked drawn and solemn as he arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. He later played an acoustic version of The Work Song for those that had gathered to celebrate the young Foxrock woman's life.

Olivia’s parents, Paul and Paula, and her brother Gavin, were also in attendance. 

For the ceremony, a large collage of photographs of Olivia and her friends and family was placed beside the altar. 

Father Frank Herron told the congregation: "The thought of six young people dying so far away in such circumstances and the thought of their parents and siblings having to make the long journey to bring them back home has pained us all.



He added: "This week our community of Foxrock has reached out to each other probably as never before. In this building we looked for God and for each other."

Symbols of Olivia’s life were earlier brought to the mass.

These included a Loreto College journal to symbolise her secondary school education; a photo of Olivia and her King Charles Spaniel, Skipper; a Ted Baker bag to symbolise her love of fashion, and a novelty hat which was given to Olivia for her 21st birthday.



After sitting her Leaving Cert in 2012, Olivia had gone on to attend IADT Dun Laoghaire. There, she was studying for a degree in business, entrepreneurship and management, and had just finished her third year exams.

As part of her course, she had also recently completed a five-month work-experience stint with East Coast FM.



Erin Brockovich, the American lawyer and environmental activist whose life and career was the subject of a major Hollywood film, has reached out to the families caught up in the Berkeley tragedy.

In a Facebook entry posted last night, she said: “As a Californian, I am devastated that these young visitors to our shores were caught up in this horrific situation.

“My heart goes out to their families, friends, and loved ones, and along with all of the people of California, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the people of Ireland.

“The waking nightmare that these families have been living for the past week is hard to imagine, and no words from me or anybody else can ease their pain.”

The 55-year-old is also calling for “immediate action on the costs for Berkeley families”.

She added: “Some of those injured would require extensive care before being able to return home.” Ms Brockovich furthermore explained that it was essential that families did not face the “additional nightmare of mounting medical bills”.

The lawyer has now made herself available to meet with and assist the families, and says she wants to help them find “a non-litigious solution in the coming weeks”.

She continued: “As a lifelong activist, I feel it is my duty to come forward and offer these families my assistance. For those who did not survive the accident, there is a need for us to uncover the truth about what happened.

“For those who did survive, there is a pressing need to ensure that the company responsible for this tragedy is held to account.”

Ms Brockovich added: “I will be calling upon those involved to do the right thing in an effort to avoid the need for prolonged and expensive litigation.”

Her calls are being supported by Dublin law firm Phelim O’Neill, with which she is working.

The Facebook post concludes by saying that she offers her “deepest sympathies” to the victims of the tragedy, “and to the people of Ireland”.

On this side of the Atlantic, Erin Brockovich is still best known for the 2000 movie of the same name. Starring Julia Roberts in the title role, the actress went on to win an Oscar for her portrayal.

Despite coming from a disadvantaged background and with no formal legal training, Ms Brockovich was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company 20 years ago. 

She currently works for Girardi & Keese in the New York, and Shine Lawyers in Brisbane, Australia. 



The funeral of 21-year-old Eoghan Culligan has taken place this afternoon in Rathfarnham.

Eoghan died in Berkeley, California along with five others when the fourth-floor balcony they were standing on at a 21st birthday party collapsed.

An alumnus of St Mary's College in Rathmines, current pupils from the school provided a guard of honour along with Eoghan's team-mates from Ballyboden St Enda’s GAA club.

During the ceremony, his parents, brothers and friends all spoke movingly. And Eoghan's girlfriend, 20-year-old Sarah McCarthy, a young woman who had attended the nearby Loreto Beaufort secondary school, brought much of the congregation to tears.

Reading aloud a poem she penned herself, she said would mourn the “future we could have had and the memories we could have made”.

She said: "I'll miss our walks in Dun Laoghaire to catch the sun set and I'll miss our ritual of a cup of tea and a biscuit every night after dinner.

"I'll miss the dinner dates and cheeky pints… the hungover days of eating McDonalds for breakfast and Dominoes for dinner.

"I'll miss our seasonal trips to Vienna to visit Andy and T, our walks in Marley Park and how we'd Facetime each other every night before bed.

"I'll also miss texting you every second of the day and how we were the only ones who understood what real music was. 

"I'll miss the way you never left my side and when it was time to say goodbye you'd hug me so tight, tell me how much you loved me and then say goodnight.

"I'll miss you waiting on me patiently without any fuss and how you always made sure I knew no one else in the world mattered except us.

"I'll miss hearing you tell me how amazing we were and how we were put on this earth to be with each other.

"I'll miss how much you loved and the future we could have had and the memories we could have made.

"My soulmate was taken from me but I know you will live on in my heart every day and that you will guide me every step of the way."

Eoghan Culligan's brothers, Stephen and Andy, also addressed the hundreds of mourners in attendance. 

"He was always the one who saw both the common ground and the stupidity of our arguments. He was our translator, our sense-maker, our peacemaker, He was our wiser brother," Stephen said.

Andy said he brought the other brothers closer together as the family grew older, adding: "What's been very apparent to me over the last few days… Eoghan would always be the person I could rely on.

"He was my little brother but he was my big brother at the same time."

Afterwards, Eoghan, a former student at DIT, was brought to Mount Jerome Cemetery for burial.




As the devastation and heartbreak of the Berkeley tragedy rings around the world, perhaps the only place where solace can be found is in the outpouring of support and solidarity that has been seen since the fatal tragedy.

As families and friends mourn the tragic loss of loved ones, several Irish students have been left facing life-altering injuries.

One of these students is Clodagh Cogley, 21. Clodagh survived the fall when her friend, Jack Halpin, 21, grabbed her and helped break her fall. A spokesperson for the Cogley family said that “both of them sadly came off as badly as each other”.

Since Ms Cogley’s survival, her brother Darragh has been providing her friends with updates of her condition, and he also tweeted to see if they could get support from JK Rowling, and from Stephen Fry.

And thankfully, his call has been answered.

Author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, has tweeted at Clodagh wishing her a quick recovery and sending love to her friends and family.

Clodagh is a native of Milltown in Dublin 6, and previously attended the well-know Alexandra College. She is the granddaughter of legendary RTÉ rugby commentator, Fred Cogley, and is a student at Trinity College.