Sunday 20 October 2019

Ralph Riegel: 'Murder of Paddy (90), a unique, kind and humble man, represents ultimate nightmare of elderly in rural Ireland'

Sociable: Paddy Lyons was a kind man who loved his farm, friends and family said
Sociable: Paddy Lyons was a kind man who loved his farm, friends and family said

Ralph Riegel

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

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

In the tight-knit 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.

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. 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' among his favourites.

Paddy was also a regular at Mass in St Mary's Church in Ballysaggart, the church where he was baptised in 1927, back 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.

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 pressure to install high-security locks on all his doors or to have a burglar alarm fitted.

Paddy was found lying blood-spattered in an armchair in the house where he 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."

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 "a 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 had been left "shattered".

One of the iconic images published in the days after Paddy's death was a photograph of him sitting on a bench beside Ballysaggart graveyard. It was taken by local man Paddy Geoghegan in the Indian summer of 2016.

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

Irish Independent

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