Sligo priest describes violent deaths of two men as ‘beyond appalling’

Locals fear people will now be ‘looking over their shoulder’ following recent events

Flowers at the scene in Connaughton Road, Sligo, following the death of Michael Snee on Tuesday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

On every street corner in Sligo, local people are talking of little except the two men who died in brutal circumstances this week.

Fr Noel Rooney who had to tell Mass goers about the murder of two parishioners over two days, said he had seen a lot of tears this week. He is parish priest of St Joseph's parish, Ballytivnan, which includes the Cartron area where Aidan Moffitt lived and where Michael Snee grew up.

On Tuesday morning Fr Rooney – who had known Mr Moffitt as a toddler when he was curate in Lisacul, Co Roscommon, during the 1980s – broke the news of his death to the congregation.

At Wednesday morning’s Mass, he had to tell those present that another parishioner had been murdered. “I found it very upsetting to have to tell people at Mass this morning that there had been another murder in the parish,” he said. “People are absolutely shocked. I saw a lot of people in tears yesterday and there will be more tears today.”


He said he kept thinking that this is Easter week and “these two families are definitely being crucified”.

After hearing about the circumstances of Mr Snee’s death on Wednesday, Fr Rooney paid a visit to the murdered man’s father John, who is a neighbour and almost 90 years old. “Michael was a lovely lad. As someone else said to me, ‘You could not fight with Michael Snee,’ ” said Fr Rooney.

Describing recent events in Sligo as “beyond appalling”, the parish priest said it was hard to know what to say to the two families but it was important to say something and to reach out to them.

A few years ago he had been approached by Aidan Moffitt in his local pub, the Village Inn in Cartron, where he had told him, “You carried me on your shoulders when I was a baby”.

Fr Rooney said it was “one of those little twists life throws at you” and having met Mr Moffitt many times since then, he found it very difficult to think he was gone in such circumstances. “He was very friendly and chatty to everybody. I was gobsmacked yesterday morning when I heard.”

When Maura Healy from outside Sligo town was in the hairdressers on Wednesday, a stylist showed her an online video being widely shared, showing what appeared to be a young man being arrested by armed gardaí in the town the previous night . “You’d think it was a Netflix series,” she said. “People are a little bit frightened.”

There was only one topic of conversation among local people, but she was also thinking of the recently arrived Ukrainians. “They will be thinking, ‘what have we landed in?’ ” she said.

Two women chatting outside Lyons department store said everyone in the town was talking about the same thing. “I knew Michael Snee very, very well, since he was a child going to school – and he was a gentleman,” said one.

She did not know Mr Moffitt, but she “woke at four o’clock this morning thinking of him and what he went through”.

A few hours later, she learned that the same fate had befallen the easygoing man she had known since childhood. Her friend worries that people will now be “looking over their shoulder” and will be living in fear.

French student Noemie Soret, who arrived in Sligo six months ago and lives close to Mr Snee’s home, said she was surprised to learn of two murders in two days because “this is such a little town” .

She was scared too , she said, “especially at night”.

John Joe Kelly from Manchester said that during the 13 years he has lived in Sligo, he had “never seen a punch thrown”.

Describing it as “a community where everybody knows everybody” the musician said that while it was always possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, “this is a whole different level” of violence.

“People are nervous but hopefully better times are ahead,” he said.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland