Tuesday 22 October 2019

Ralph Riegel: 'Brutal murder of Paddy Lyons (90) represents ultimate nightmare of elderly in rural Ireland'

'No one has forgotten kind-hearted Paddy and what he must have endured'

Victim: Paddy Lyons suffered multiple blows to the head
Victim: Paddy Lyons suffered multiple blows to the head
Paddy Lyons: 90-year-old was found dead in an armchair at home
Ross Outram. Photo: Cork Courts

Ralph Riegel

THE brutal murder of Paddy Lyons (90) represents the ultimate nightmare of the elderly in rural Ireland.

Old, vulnerable people are now living in fear of attack in their own homes and within their own beloved communities.

In the tightknit west Waterford village of Ballysaggart, no one has forgotten kind-hearted Paddy and what he must have endured in the hours before his horrific death on February 23-26 2017.

Paddy was the hurling-obsessed village's best known character and a familiar figure on the Ballyduff-Lismore road where he would hitch a lift to do his shopping or to attend a social event.

Ross Outram. Photo: Cork Courts
Ross Outram. Photo: Cork Courts

The 90 year old adored music and would attend any concert he could reach in Ballysaggart, Lismore, Cappoquin or Ballyduff.

Just three months before his death, Paddy attended the local Christmas party for the elderly - and insisted on dancing in his turned-down wellies to the delight of everyone.

He adored Irish ballads with ‘The Fields of Athenry’ and ‘Old Dungarvan Oak’ amongst his favourites.

Paddy was a regular at Mass in  St Mary's Church in Ballysaggart, the church where he was baptised in 1927 when Ireland was a Free State and not yet a Republic.

He now lies buried beside his parents, John and Nora, to the rear of the same church.

Paddy never left Ballysaggart and lived his entire life at the Loughleagh cottage which had once been his parents home.

Victim: Retired farmer Paddy Lyons had multiple injuries
Victim: Retired farmer Paddy Lyons had multiple injuries

Like similar homes across rural Ireland, the door used to be left unlocked - so that neighbours could call in to escape the rain or simply to share a cup of tea.

The Loughleagh cottage was famous for the warmth of the turf fires in Paddy’s hearth and the welcome he would offer neighbours, friends and visitors alike.

Paddy had been robbed several times between 2009 and 2016 but resisted all pleas from neighbours and community alert officials to install high security locks on all his doors or to have a burglar alarm fitted.

On February 26, Paddy was found lying blood-spattered in an armchair in the house where he had lived for 90 years.

He had been dead for some time after suffering multiple blows to his head and neck from a blunt weapon.

"The entire community was left traumatised," Pat Power said.

"The guards did a great job with the investigation but people were still left worried and frightened."

"I know a lot of old people around here were saying that if something like that could happen to Paddy, it could happen to them too."

"People were very, very upset by it."

Sales of house alarms and high-security locks soared across west Waterford in the wake of Paddy's death.

Friends and relatives painted a picture of a kind man who loved his farm, his community and his neighbours.

Margaret Fitzgerald, speaking on behalf of the extended Lyons family at Paddy's funeral, said he was "an unique, intelligent man, honest, kind and humble."

She said his death had cast "a great shadow" over the entire community."

"But he will live in our hearts forever."

Ballysaggart Parish Priest, Fr Michael Cullinan, said the entire community was left deeply shocked by “a cowardly attack on a defenceless man.”

He said the entire community had been left “shattered” by what happened.

One of the iconic images published in the days after Paddy's death was a photograph of him sitting by a bench beside Ballysaggart graveyard.

It was one of Paddy's favourite haunts because he could persuade people to stop for a chat - or ensure he could wave down a lift to wherever he wanted to go.

The photograph was taken by local man Paddy Geoghegan in the Indian summer of 2016.

"The people of Ballysaggart - man, woman and child - they all knew Paddy," he recalled.

"He was a lovely, lovely man. He was very outgoing, very sociable and loved his community and the people in it."

"He didn't take age into account at all - he would chat to anyone."

One of Paddy's favourite haunts was the Red House Pub in Lismore where regulars would chat about his favourite topics ranging from hurling to music and farming.

He could also be seen at Ballyduff's famous theatre festival and at St Carthage's Hall in Lismore for music or social occasions.

But it was his beloved music that drew Paddy from Loughleagh to the towns and villages around west Waterford.

“If there was music playing anywhere locally, you could bet a €5 note that Paddy would be there smiling his great smile,” Pat Power said.

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