Stacks of bouquets, candles, handwritten notes and rainbow flags are strewn across the town of Sligo as residents mourn the deaths of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee, who were brutally killed and attacked in their own homes last week.
he Quay Street Town Hall is now a shrine to the two gay men – whose deaths have shocked Ireland and caused unease in the LGBTQ+ community.
Mr Snee, 58, a retired healthcare worker, was a pillar of the community – well-known, with an infectious laugh and a zest for life who, according to his friends, knew true kindness is the act of giving.
Mr Moffitt (42) was a bright, astute man with a keen political mind and a fondness for horse racing and Roscommon GAA. He believed, his friends say, that helpfulness was never wasted.
Grandmother Mary Trotter has not been able to sleep since the mutilated body of her boyfriend Michael was found by his nieces at his City View home last Tuesday.
“I find it difficult,” says Ms. Trotter. “His death really shook me to the core.”
Here in the rugged landscape, riddled with WB Yeats references and Stone Age artifacts, is a heartbroken county where locals like Mrs. Trotter are filled with sadness — and questions.
“We can only wonder why?” She describes her former neighbor as “an absolute gentleman who should still be here.”
“He lived across the street from me years ago and was a very nice neighbor. He was very generous and no one could ever say anything bad about him.”
When she got the call that Mr Snee had died, she said she was “stunned”.
“I was in total shock, I couldn’t sleep. I still can’t, I’m very upset about it.”
Ms Trotter says she will “cherish” memories of his humor, conversation and generosity.
“I remember Michael’s house alarm going off once. I called him at work to tell him. He came home and fixed it and the next day there was a knock on my door and it was him. He stood there for me with a bouquet of flowers – this is the man I will remember.
“When I lay in bed at night I think of him, I will miss him.”
She lowers her head at the vigil outside City Hall, where hundreds of people have gathered, including both families. They stand still among the crowd; Some of them are holding candles and handkerchiefs, others are holding photos of their loved ones.
They have remained dignified throughout, but the pain of having their lives turned upside down in an instant is written all over their faces. They wipe away tears while tributes are being made and tell the story sunday independent, by a third party that they are too “traumatized” to speak publicly.
A photograph of Mr Moffitt, who was a Fine Gael activist, is in a polybag, with the party logo underneath. Next to it, the wax from two candles melts down the edge of a glass vessel. On the other side of the wall, his photo was printed on a candle with the words “rest in peace” engraved on the underside.
Alongside Ms. Trotter is her transgender granddaughter Amy Rose Hunter, 20. She has purple hair and lipstick, and carries a flag to show solidarity with the dead.
“This is a town that joins forces with the families of Aidan and Michael to pay our respects,” she says.
“The queer community is mourning and we are devastated by her death.”
Ms Hunter, who came out when she was 11, says she’s proud to be able to be herself in her hometown.
But the tragic deaths have caused her much grief. She did not leave her house for days.
“Our main aim for being here tonight is to remember Aidan and Michael, but also to ask non-LGBTQ+ people here in Sligo to be an ally for us,” she says.
Also on display is a framed photograph of Mr Snee leaning against the wall next to eight candles. A message on one of the bouquets reads, “Our hearts go out to you all at this very sad time.” A rainbow flag hangs from the upper window of an apartment across the street.
Crouching next to Ms Hunter and draped in a rainbow flag is her mother, Oriel Trotter, who “can hardly sleep” at the thought of the murders. She remembers the “really kind” Michael she knew.
“I last saw him a few months ago,” she says. “He hugged me. I never thought we’d be doing this here tonight. I know all of Sligo is thinking of him and Aidan and their families.”
It’s too much for gay couple Dee Gillan and Casi Snell.
“It seems unreal, like a bad dream,” says an emotional Ms Gillan who knew Mr Snee.
“Michael was a great character who was full of fun. He was a lovely man who was always up for a joke. When we met there was a lot of laughter.”
She says she was “moved to tears” looking at Michael’s photo on display.
“I’m getting sick, I can’t believe it,” says Ms. Snell.
“I met Aidan a few times in our local pubs, he was a nice man.”
Sitting on a wall in a rainbow jumper with a candle is Savannah McCafferty, who also gets emotional when she speaks, and describes both Mr Snee and Mr Moffitt as “mere gentlemen”. “Sligo is very community based and everyone knows everyone. So when news like this comes out, it takes a toll on everything because it’s shocking.
“But I’m glad people are showing their support and showing that we are strong and will be there for families and friends. I want them to know that.”
Street performer Cillian Rogers, who led the first Pride march in Sligo more than 20 years ago, quietly lays a neat bouquet of hand-picked flowers – just meters from where the grieving families stand.
A colorful character with long hair and a beard, he wears a colorful jacket and bright red shoes.
But it masks his sadness.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry,” he says, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I’m sorry I got emotional, I’m just… I’m just… I find this all very upsetting.”
What makes you emotional? I ask. “The pain of what happened,” he says. “The fact that this happened and that’s why I’m here – to commemorate the dead, to be here for my gay friends.”
Clutching takeaway coffee cups, the crowds come and go.
Many find the experience too upsetting. Others embrace and give reassuring hugs.
Among them is LGBTQ+ activist Izzy Kamikaze, who says Sligo and the border region “stand together to embrace our differences”.
Forty years ago, when it first came out, Ms. Kamikaze took part in her first gay-led march following the death of gay man Declan Flynn, who was beaten in a targeted attack by teenagers. His death has thrown Ireland’s Pride movement into turmoil.
“Here I am, four decades later, joining others. The community work is there, it’s not going away. Sligo has a good feeling for its LGBTQ+ people and is showing its support.
“What happened to Aidan and Michael is overwhelmingly sad, scary and upsetting.”
The day before, Yousef Palani, 22, whose address was given as Markievicz Heights, Co Sligo, appeared in court accused of murdering Mr Moffitt and Mr Snee.
He is also accused of assaulting a third man, Anthony Burke, on Cleveragh Road in the city on April 9.
Mr. Burke and relatives of the two murder victims sat in the courtroom for the brief hearing at which Mr. Palani was taken into custody.
He will appear in court again on April 21 via video link.
Outside Sligo Courthouse, Andy Lyntt fought back tears.
He said the past week has been “amazing”, adding: “It’s hard to understand.
“These men don’t deserve this. I’ve known Michael for years. He was a gentleman, a wonderful person.
“He would have given you every penny in his pocket if you needed it.”
The same warmth is extended to Mr Moffitt, whose body was found at his Cartron Heights home last Monday night.
“He was a great friend,” said Frank Feighan, Fine Gael’s TD. “He was successful, popular and respected. He was the life and soul of the party and loved by everyone who knew him.”
The funerals for both victims are scheduled for tomorrow.
Canon Liam Devine, vicar of Loughglynn, Co Roscommon, and Father Noel Rooney, vicar of St Joseph’s, Ballytivnan, Co Sligo will conduct the funerals.
Outside Mr Snee’s home, where gardaí were still investigating the scene, independent TD Marc MacSharry insisted the community would gather behind the families in the coming period.
He said it was “sickened by the level of violence, which has left everyone in shock”.
“To have a double murder and another attack in a quiet part of Sligo is extremely shocking. Things like that don’t happen here.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/these-men-were-so-kind-and-so-good-all-we-can-do-is-ask-why-this-happened-to-them-41560215.html “These men were so kind and so good. We can only ask why this happened to them.