Sligo’s LGBT+ community is “shocked” and “in disbelief” after two men were brutally killed in suspected homophobic hate crimes.
An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s police force, believe both men were killed by the same person. Yousef Palani, a 22-year-old man from Sligo, was charged with murder and appeared in court on Thursday (14 April).
Gardaí believe the suspect tracked his victims down through Grindr before he murdered them and mutilated their bodies.
Maxton Ó Floinn, communications officer with Sligo Pride, says the local LGBT+ community has been plunged into a state of fear over the killings.
“I think we’re all just shocked and in disbelief,” Maxton tells PinkNews. “It’s been frightening because we have made so many advances – we have a Sligo Pride festival and we’re running LGBT+ social events, but at the same time, over the last number of years, the rise of homophobia and those very violent attacks [has been concerning].”
Neither Moffitt nor Snee were known to Sligo Pride, but the news came as a shock nonetheless. One of their committee members lives just a few doors down from where Moffitt was killed.
“It was quite shocking and disturbing to know just how physically close it happened,” Maxton says.
The killings of Moffitt and Snee have served as a devastating reminder to Ireland’s LGBT+ community that there is a cohort of people out there who wish harm on queer people.
22-year-old Yousef Palani has appeared in court charged with the murders of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee in Sligo, along with a further assault charge. pic.twitter.com/xJ9psINxaz
— Eoghan Murphy (@eoghanymurphy) April 14, 2022
“Even just this morning when we had a committee meeting some of our members just mentioned how they’ve been walking around with sharp objects close to hand in case they do get attacked,” Maxton says. They’re literally fearing for their own safety and their own lives. There is definitely a sense of unease and fear brewing in the local community.”
Ireland’s LGBT+ community needs tangible action after Sligo murders
Government figures have spoken out against the Sligo murders – Leo Varadkar has spoken of his shock at the deaths of both men. But the message from the LGBT+ community is clear: elected representatives need to move beyond platitudes and instead focus on firm action and commitments that will help stamp out homophobia and transphobia for good.
Maxton wants the government to enact new hate crime legislation, but they also want to stress that legislative action won’t be enough by itself.
“We do need that hate crime legislation, but at the same time education is really important. I think the big reason why it’s still such a big issue is because calling someone ‘gay’ can still have an insult connotation to it. There’s still a lot of that in rural Ireland where it’s taking a while for things to catch up.”
Maxton Ó Floinn. (Provided)
It’s even worse for people who are part of more than one marginalised community, Maxton stresses. Queer people of colour are dealing with the double whammy of racism and queerphobia on a daily basis.
“We need to make sure people are being educated about difference,” Maxton says.
Maxton’s comments come after days of shock and devastating within Ireland’s LGBT+ community. Vigils have been planned across the country.
Moffitt, an auctioneer and Fine Gael activist, was found dead at his home on Monday evening (11 April). His body had been severely mutilated.
Snee, a healthcare worker and gardening enthusiast who lived alone with his dog, was found dead on Tuesday (12 April).
On Wednesday morning (13 April), Irish police arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the Sligo murders. According to the Irish Examiner, detectives believe he may have been planning to target more gay men.
The suspect was named as Yousef Palani on Thursday (14 April). He was charged shortly afterwards and later appeared in court where he was remanded in custody.