Friday 24 November 2017

'A cowardly murder – that's what everyone in town thinks'

Greg Harkin and  Cormac McQuinn

THE Blaine brothers were local characters, Castlebar stalwarts known by everyone – from the business owners along the street where they lived and the punters of nearby bars , to Taoiseach Enda Kenny himself.

Jack Blaine (68) would pop into pubs for glasses of orange or cups of tea and sandwiches, often bringing his own mugs for a refill to take home to the neat little two-story terraced house near Mr Kenny's office, where he lived with elder sibling Tom.

He would never be charged by local businesses, who knew him well and watched out for the vulnerable brothers.

Jack Blaine was unsteady on his feet after a building site accident 30 years ago. He also helped to care for his brother Tom (70), who also had special needs.

They had nothing of value, perhaps just €200. The brothers wouldn't have stood a chance.

They met a brutal end, their battered bodies discovered by a home help worker at 7am on Wednesday.

The brothers had moved back to Co Mayo from London in the late 1970s after Jack was injured in the building site accident.

His hunched figure and his shuffling steps were a feature of life in the heart of Castlebar.

Jackie, as he was known, would regularly drop into Sloyan's Bar across the street from his home.


Brother and sister Donnacha and Una Sloyan would serve him when he called in.

"He only ever wanted a pint of Miwadi and a packet of crisps," said Una, who was still in shock. "We're finding it hard to take all this stuff in."

Donnacha said Tom Blaine rarely left home, but Jack would often sit outside, especially in the evenings.

The Blaine brothers had no immediate relatives, their brother Joe passing away a number of years ago.

Their cousin Paul Dunne said he often called to see the men to check on them in between visits from their home help.

He last saw the men alive around 5pm on Tuesday.

"They were in grand form," Paul said. "It's just shocking what has happened."

Another cousin, Colm Hopkins, said: "They wouldn't have had any money. Whatever happened, the poor lads had an awful doing anyway."

Michael McDonnell, owner of Bosh Bar, and John Ralph, manager at Rocky's, would often serve Jack coffees.

And Jack had his last coffee in Rocky's around midnight on Tuesday.

"He was a man of few words," said John. "He came in for a top-up as he called it. He was just a gentle quiet man who wouldn't harm anyone. It is just appalling what has happened."


Michael was equally upset. "I knew both men very well and they were harmless. I know people say that sort of thing, but they really were harmless and completely defenceless."

Neighbour Ernie Sweeney said: "If you were to look for the weakest people in the town, they were the two weakest. Two angels were killed in Castlebar – end of story," he said.

But while locals looked out for the pair, its just two months since Jack suffered a beating in a vicious incident.

"Jackie was attacked before," said Donnacha Sloyan. "It was disgusting what happened to Jackie then. They urinated on him as he lay on the ground."

Ninety-two-year-old Kitty Sloyan (pictured above), who still lives above the family pub, said: "It was dreadful what happened. I've known them all my life and I can't believe what has happened to them."

Local woman Noreen Hamilton said the Blaine brothers were "innocent creatures".

But she insisted: "The problem is that they (the gardai) will probably catch the sick cowards who did this and the boys who did it will be let out again after a couple of years to kill again.

"There's no law in this country. And there's no justice in this country."

Jim Cairns, who lives nearby, added: "The Taoiseach has described this as a savage and cowardly murder, and that's how everyone in this town thinks."

Irish Independent

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