Members of the LGBTQ+ community are reeling following recent “heinous” hate crimes as they call on the Government to urgently enact hate crime laws.
LGBT Ireland has said it is shocked by the “heinous crimes perpetrated in Sligo resulting in the deaths of two men”.
Chief executive officer Paula Fagan said this has been a “dark week” for the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Ms Fagan said: “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.”
“These devastating crimes bring to the fore the need for comprehensive Hate Crime legislation, and I – along with other sectoral representatives – will be speaking with lawmakers over the coming days to stress the need for them to redouble their efforts and ensure the forthcoming legislation is effective, comprehensive and enacted with urgency.”
“An Garda Síochána have indicated they are investigating the possibility of a hate related motive. The LGBTI+ Community has the right to feel and be safe on our streets, and online.”
Ms Fagan added that the focus of recent events must remain firmly on “the perpetrators of violence against LGBTI+ people”.
“These crimes are on the extreme end of a spectrum of violence experienced by the LGBTI+ community and highlight the vulnerabilities and very real fears of the wider community,” she said.
Ms Fagan said the National LGBT Helpline received 21 calls due to violence in 2021. She said these statistics are a “stark reminder” of the violence that the LGBT community faces.
“We fear that many more people do not report hate incidents to us or to the Gardaí, due to the normalisation of homophobia and transphobia in society,” she said.
“Work done by the Hate and Hostility Research Group at the University of Limerick in 2019, revealed that 1 in 5 of those surveyed had been punched, hit or physically attacked in public for being LGBTI+ and 1 in 3 had been threatened with physical violence. These statistics are stark reminder of the violence that our community still face”.
“We know that the events in Sligo and Dublin over the past week will have left members of the LGBTI+ community reeling. Our Helpline is available to all those in need of support.”
The discovery of Michael Snee’s body in Sligo comes after the remains of Aidan Moffitt (41) of Cartron Heights, Sligo town, were discovered at his home on Monday at 8.30pm.
It is understood gardaí are investigating whether the two killings are linked, and also related to a separate attack last week in which another man was seriously injured.
Officers are understood to be investigating whether the killings were the work of a potential serial killer who was targeting men on dating apps.
Gardaí believe Mr Moffitt was the victim of a hate crime motivated by homophobia.
Adam Long of the National LGBT Federation said the community is “very concerned” and that hate crime is on the rise.
“It’s certainly a very distressing time for the LGBT+ community, what we would say is that this is really kind of a spectrum of violence, and it does need to be seen through those lens unfortunately,” he told Independent.ie.
“We have the vicious, very violent assault in Dublin last weekend and now we hear of murder, which is the worst possible outcome, and of course we extend our sympathy to the families and everyone who knew those two men.”
“All of this is extremely distressing and the community I think will need support and reassurance. From that perspective we’re pleased, there seems to be a collaboration between the Gardai and LGBT groups even around the release of the safety advice.”
In a separate incident, Rugby player Evan Somers suffered horrific ankle injuries and a fractured eye socket in a suspected homophobic attack in Dublin over the weekend.
The 23-year-old remains in hospital following surgery on his ankle which suffered two fractures and a dislocation, following an unprovoked assault on Dame Street on Saturday night.
Mr Long said it is very important that this information is conveyed in a non-judgmental way.
“It’s normal to meet up online and it’s important to say that because there’s all of the danger that judgement will come into it,” he said.
Mr Long said these apparent homophobic attacks really bring the issue of hate crime to the fore.
“We commissioned a report back in 2016 and even then, hate crime was the lead concern for the community, and now we see that it’s on the rise and these attacks are on the rise so it’s even more of a pressing issue,” he said.
Mr Long said the National LGBT Federation welcomes the introduction of “very important” hate crime legislation.
“It’s only one part of the jigsaw, it’s all around the education around the law but it’s an important part of the jigsaw.”
Sligo Pride has urged members of the LGBTQ+ community to take “extra precautions” and not to walk home alone.
In a statement online, it said: “Following recent events in both Dublin and Sligo, we are urging members of our community to take extra precautions, especially if attending Pink Friday in @swagmanbarsligo this Friday or our Rainbow Ball event in @claytonsligo next Saturday.”
“If at all possible, do not walk home alone. If you cannot afford a taxi, please let a friend know when you have left a venue and when you've gotten home.”
The group warned members to alert a trusted friend if they are meeting someone they met online in person for the first time and tell them their location.
“We understand the worries and concerns at this time. We are looking into security for the Rainbow Ball as a precaution,” the group said.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said this week has been difficult for the LGBT community.
“These really were atrocious crimes, and I just want people to know that we are there for them. We are there for the community, but also that An Garda Síochána is there for the community,” she said.
“I've spoken to the Garda Commissioner this morning and he's assured me that every effort is being made to make sure that whoever is responsible for these crimes are brought to justice.
“I also want to say that I know it's been a difficult week for the LGBT community. There has been a number of incidents, which I think have caused upset and which have been distressing for people, including some of my own friends, from speaking to them.
“These are incidents that we thought were behind us… again, I just want to reassure people that any crimes that are motivated by hate or by prejudice or discrimination will not be tolerated, and indeed will carry higher sentences.”
Minister McEntee added that she hoped to introduce the Hate Crime Bill in a matter of weeks to respond to what were “atrocious crimes.”
The National LGBT Helpline is available for emotional support on freephone 1800 929 539, 7 days a week, from 6.30pm to 10pm Monday to Thursday, from 4pm to 10pm on Fridays, and from 4pm to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.