Jackie & Coco: how a mother’s fight after daughter’s death changed Ireland’s online bullying law

Television: Gerard Walsh’s documentary tracks Jackie Fox’s campaign to honour the legacy of her daughter, Nicole Fox-Fenlon.

Every morning Jackie Fox sprays her daughter Nicole’s bed with her favourite perfume. The ritual brings back precious memories of Nicole Fox-Fenlon, who died by suicide in January 2018 after years of online bullying.

“She was funny and bubbly,” Jackie recalls in Jackie & Coco (RTÉ One, Monday, 9.35pm), Gerard Walsh’s documentary about Jackie and her work as an anti-bullying campaigner. “She loved to sing and dance.”

Jackie has spent the past five years striving to honour her daughter’s legacy by pushing for new anti-cyberbullying legislation. These regulations – named Coco’s Law in reference to Nicole – will, she hopes, spare other families the terrible fate visited upon hers. “I had to lose Nicole for other people to gain,” she says, fighting tears but with steel in her voice.

Jackie & Coco is a moving and sensitive film that tracks Jackie’s journey from a heartbroken mother to a formidable advocate. There are interviews with former Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who took up her cause, and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, who recalls a deeply moving meeting with Jackie.


Jackie recalls how her daughter began to suffer serious bullying from age 18, with the first incident taking place at a nearby nightclub. This is a upsetting subject, and Walsh would not have wanted to intrude upon the family’s grief. And given the subject matter and Jackie’s passion and bravery, there is an obvious reluctance to be critical. But viewers may still feel that part of the picture is missing – that Jackie & Coco doesn’t tell us enough about Nicole and the circumstances leading up to her death.

This viewer wanted to know more – and it is a shame the documentary didn’t take a moment to celebrate Nicole as an individual or go into more detail about the bullying that she experienced or elaborate on how Coco’s Law might have saved her. There is an assumption that we are already up to speed on the Nicole’s experiences of bullying and her death – which together receive fewer than 10 minutes of screen time.

There is, at least, a satisfying conclusion. After Coco’s Law enters the statute books in Ireland, Jackie’s anti-cyberbullying campaign was taken up in the European Parliament, where she travelled to give a speech.

But there is a heartbreaking coda, too. Jackie has achieved so much and worked selflessly to honour her daughter’s memory. Yet a great deal of their life together is too painful for her to revisit.

“There’s a bundle of memories. I’m not ready to let them out yet. I was thrown into a horrific situation,” she says, on a trip to the Wexford seaside – a haven since Nicole’s death. “I went into survival mode. I focus on survival. I focus on living. I focus on now.”

Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie or jo@samaritans.org. Pieta House can be reached at freephone 1800 247 247.