IF the tragedy of Noah Donohoe held us breathless and sick with worry for the better part of a week, and if the final heartbreaking outcome left us reeling, we can hardly even begin to imagine what the teenager’s family have been through.

The Noah story  filled the airwaves and the columns of the mainstream media for six days and we looked on first in hope and then with a deepening sense of dread and worry as the time passed. Social media played a vital role in uniting the community – to such an extent that the emergency services were overwhelmed by the amount of people responding to calls for help with the search. Indeed, such was the willingness of people right across this city and beyond to offer their services that eventually the statutory agencies involved were forced into asking them to step aside in order to let the professionals work in the way which was required.

That inspirational response will, we hope, be of some comfort to the family as they come to terms with their indescribable loss, particularly in the days and weeks to come when the cameras are no longer clicking.

As ever with social media, the positive has a reverse side. None of us who are online can fail to have seen for ourselves the salacious gossip, the factless speculation and the dangerous accusations. Those saddled with grim job of finding Noah did their best to stem that grim tide, but it was an increasingly hopeless task as the days passed and concern and tension deepened. And even as Noah was laid to rest on Wednesday, social media was still crackling with ill-informed and deeply inappropriate commentary on what may or may not have happened and who may or may not have been involved in the tragedy.

As others found out early in the search, pleading for these people to stop and let this family grieve in peace is an all but worthless exercise. But it is a plea that decency demands that we make regardless.

Police must get a grip

THE brutal murder of Warren Crossan in the St James’ district is just the latest in a series of sickeningly violent gun attacks to have occurred in communities in West and North Belfast in recent weeks and months.

A local family is grieving and we do not propose to add any further to their suffering – particularly given that the victim’s father met a similarly violent end in 2014 and this double tragedy is an immense burden for relatives to bear.

That said, it is a matter of the utmost urgency that the PSNI come to grips with the criminals who would turn our streets into lawless territory where their writ runs. The murder in short order of Robbie Lawlor in Ardoyne, Kieran Wylie in Lenadoon and now Warren Crossan in St James’ suggests that police may be on the brink of losing control – if they haven’t already lost it.

Over the past five years we have watched with horror the streets of Dublin turned into something resembling a black and white gangster movie as the Hutch-Kinahan feud claimed 20 deaths. It is inconceivable that as we emerge from a three decades-long conflict a different kind of violence is starting to take a grip.

It is imperative that police get a handle on this before it’s too late.