MOURNERS at today's funeral for tragic Elisha Gault were told to "put your phones down and surround yourselves with real people".
The teenager, 14, was found dead in the River Suir, Co. Tipperary on Sunday after she disappeared from her Carrick-on-Suir home on St Patrick's night.
A huge eight-day search operation had been carried out along the river for Elisha, who was last seen on a bridge in Carrick.
Her funeral mass began at 11am this morning, with Fr Paschal Moore admonishing the congregation to surround themselves with “real people” rather than “artificial friends” on social media.
Speaking at the Church of the Assumption in Kilkenny, Fr Moore described the youngster as a "beautiful young girl".
He told mourners: "Every funeral is sad. Every departure brings its sorrows but today nothing can compare to the grief, the searing grief, that Elisha’s family are now experiencing so our thoughts and our prayers are for them on this very, very sad morning.
"Elisha’s death has raised many questions but hasn’t given many answers.
"This morning we want to really and truly empathise with this family, the Gault and Moore family, because they have been robbed of the company of their loving daughter, they have been robbed of her unique enthusiasm and her joy and her smile.
"They’ve been deprived of her gentle presence. There is an emptiness, a void that no-one can fill this morning for them."
Elisha’s sisters Bhrianna, Nicole and Saoirse were comforted by mum Grainne Gault as the family said their final goodbyes.
Symbols of the teenager’s short life were brought to the altar, including a book and a phone as well as a cross and Bible.
Fr Moore told of how Elisha struggled on the inside, despite appearing happy to her loved-ones.
“Elisha’s outward appearance and behaviour were masked by an air of hopelessness within," he said.
"She felt trapped, she was a prisoner of her feelings and her thoughts which weighed heavily on her and she was in turmoil, a turmoil we can never appreciate or understand.
“Elisha, she took the only route she felt she could take. She took the only route she felt she could take. Not the right route, not the right choice, but it was the only route that she felt she could take.
"Her actions have left her family, her community, her schoolfriends devastated and completely, utterly upset and confused. We pray that she is at peace today.”
Fr Moore also implored Elisha's schoolmates and friends to "find a good support network" in their lives.
He added: “We all have our worries, our stresses and our anxieties. The problem arises when our anxiety takes over every part of our lives.
“Today, boys and girls, I encourage you to form a support network around yourselves... I would encourage you also to turn off your iPhone every now and again.
"Facebook is wonderful at times and people boast about how many friends they have on Facebook, but your friends on Facebook are artificial friends.
"You need real people around you, real genuine, caring people and I would encourage you, every one of you, to find a real, good support network for yourselves.”
Following Elisha's burial in Piltown, Co. Kilkenny, a special celebration of her life was held at the Swan Club in Carrick-on-Suir.
Gardaí have stressed that her death is being treated as a "tragedy" and is not suspicious.