By Dominic McGrath, PA
In a town of 20,000 people, it is hard to find anyone not touched by the two brutal murders committed in Sligo in recent days.
Sligo town, pitched in the middle of high mountains and sandy beaches, is grappling with the killings of Aidan Moffitt, 42, and Michael Snee, 58.
Gardaí have launched two separate murder investigations and a man in his 20s is still being questioned, after being arrested in Sligo town at around 1.45am on Wednesday morning,
A potential hate-related motive is being considered by gardai, but officers have also stressed they are keeping an “open mind” on motivations behind the murders.
Blaine Gaffney, a close friend of Mr Moffitt, is still coming to terms with the events of the past few days.
“This is a very open community. We’re welcoming of every nationality, every sexuality, every orientation and to think that something as horrific as this may have happened just doesn’t bear thinking about.
“It’s been absolute carnage in terms of people’s fear. The WhatsApp groups are bursting, people don’t feel safe in their own homes,” he told PA news agency.
“There’s a real sense of fear and unknown. This is going to set this community back decades and it’s just so hard to think that something this horrific could happen in Co Sligo.
That mood was replicated in the area were Mr Moffitt lived.
Around the corner from his home in Cartron Heights is a community creche and on Wednesday evening children played amid the four garda vehicles keeping watch at the crime scene.
Locals spoke of how a change had come over the peaceful town.
Chris O’Brien, a native of Tipperary, has lived in Sligo for the last six years.
His home is a short stroll from where Mr Moffitt was murdered.
He told PA that the area was quiet and filled with families.
“This stuff would never happen in this place. Nothing would ever happen. There’s a creche over there and everything.
“It has shocked everyone.”
Mr O’Brien said he regularly saw Mr Moffitt in one of the local pubs and would often speak to him.
“He was a grand lad, happy out. Nothing would ever bother him or anything,” he recalls.
Connaughton Road, where Mr Snee lived, was quiet on Wednesday evening.
Gardai were still at the City View cul-de-sac at around 5pm, around an hour and a half after the body of Mr Snee was removed from the scene.
Flowers had been laid near the house, at the edge of where the area had been taped off by gardai.
Around the corner, a few people walked dogs along the football pitches close to the murder scene, as local landmark Benbulben mountain loomed in the distance.
Local Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan said that a “cloud of worry and fear” has descended on the town.
“The community is stunned and shocked and there is a huge worry and fear over the last few days,” he said.
“It’s relatively peaceful. The areas where the incidents happened are quiet, residential areas.”
Mr Moffitt was involved in the local Fine Gael branch and only a few weeks ago was leafletting with Mr Feighan, who said they “very close”.
“He was a genuinely good guy and was very gregarious and was good fun and liked by everyone who knew him.
“He loved the horses and the GAA – Roscommon GAA especially,” Mr Feighan said.
Paula Fagan, CEO of LGBT Ireland, had earlier called it a “dark week for the LGBTI+ community in Ireland”.
“We are still reeling from the vicious homophobic assault on Dame Street in Dublin in recent days and now we are deeply saddened by events in Sligo.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones.”
Vigils are already being organised in memory of the two men.
In the city of Limerick, crowds are expected to gather on April 18 to pay their respects.
But back in Sligo, feelings remain raw.
One local garda on Wednesday evening carefully and gently moved the bunches of flowers from a wall outside the home of Mr Moffitt to directly in front of his closed gate.
“God bless us,” he sighed aloud.