‘Our community is our strength’: hundreds gather at vigils in memory of two men killed

Huge crowds, many holding pride flags, attend events across the country

Hundreds of people have gathered at separate vigils in Sligo, Dublin, Belfast and other counties to remember Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee, who were killed earlier this week.

Huge crowds, many holding pride flags, gathered outside Dáil Éireann from 6pm.

Scenes at the vigil in Sligo town on Friday were replicated all over the island, with more than 30 events organised in towns and cities on both sides of the border. Many of the gatherings were organised by local LGBT groups.

Photographs of both Mr Snee and Mr Moffitt were on display at the Town Hall in Sligo throughout the rally. Many friends of both men were in attendance. Mr Snee’s elderly father John watched proceedings from a car parked opposite the hall.

The Mayor of Sligo Arthur Gibbons, who wore a Sligo Pride t-shirt and his chain of office, said the events of the past week was “not representative of Sligo” which he said was a multi cultural place.

Among those in attendance were the Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran and Jamshaid Sulehri, spokesman for the Sligo Leitrim Islamic Cultural Centre who said: “I am glad to be here. I wanted to be here”.

Caitriona Bonner of Sligo Pride said “Sligo was shaken to its core,” by the deaths of Mr Moffitt and Mr Snee.

Support

Among the local people gathered was Helen Sweeney (72) from Maugheraboy in Sligo who said she had come “to show my support”. She said she had known Michael Snee . “He was a fine looking fellow . He was always friendly. My heart is broken,” she said.

Another local resident Michael McGovern said he knew Mr Snee for 25 years and also knew the Sligo man who was assaulted last weekend.

“They did not deserve that,” he said.

Dee Gilles and Casi Snell, who wore Pride t-shirts, said they were devastated at the deaths of the two men.

“It is heart breaking for their families,”Ms Gilles said.

She said she knew Mr Snee who was “a gentle soul” . Ms Snell she too knew Michael Snee, someone who “would never hurt a fly”.

A minutes silence was observed as a mark of respect to Mr Moffitt and Mr Snee at the end of the ceremony.

At Leinster House on Friday evening, Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, the chair and founder of the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council (IMPAC), told those assembled in Dublin that he was present to “face down the current demonisation and otherisation of LBGTI people there. We will beat homophobia together.”

Outrage and fear

Introducing the various speakers, Jed Dowling, the chief executive of Dublin Pride, said they had come together to share their “outrage and fear” about what had happened, but also “pride in coming together to stand with all marginalised communities that are subject to discrimination and bigotry”.

National LGBT Federation board member Steve Jacques said: “This country has become a safe haven for other LGBT people. We have seen that in the last few weeks.”

Daire Dempsey of Transgender Equality Network Ireland said they would not be going “back into the closet - our community is our strength.”

“There can be no space within the queer community for racism or Islamophobia. Liberation means nothing if it is for some and not all.”

The funerals of the two men - Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee - will take place at the same time on Easter Monday.

The remains of Aidan Moffitt (41), who was found dead at his home in Cartron Heights, in Sligo town, on Monday evening, will repose at Sharkey Funeral Home in Ballaghaderreen on Easter Sunday. His funeral will take place on Monday at 11.30am to Christ the King Church for 12pm mass.

Michael Snee (58) was found dead on Tuesday evening at his home in the City View estate, Connaughton Road.

Mr Snee will be reposing from 2pm to 8pm on Saturday and Easter Sunday at his family home in Cartron Point, Sligo.

His funeral will take place on Monday at 11.30am to Saint Joseph’s Church, Ballytivnan, for funeral mass at 12pm.