Thursday 14 December 2017

Small community keeps its silence over night of tragedy


PAY a visit to Arranmore island off Donegal and you are likely to learn nothing of its night of horror.

There's no talk in the presence of strangers about the dark night when teenager Paul Boyle died from injuries received in Early's Bar, just up the hill from the main pier.

Not even witnesses in the case, which found Stephen Boyle not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter last week, discuss their evidence in the pubs back home.

When there's trouble in an island community, the sense is not to talk. That's the best way of seeking to continue to live together, according to a number of Arranmore residents who quietly explained their reluctance to even discuss what would be open conversation in a mainland town.

The silence of the island reflects the community's support for all families involved in the tragedy of the night when 41-year-old Stephen Boyle stabbed a Heineken glass into the neck of 19-year-old Paul Boyle.

Now, as Stephen Boyle awaits sentence on March 12 for the killing that he admitted, Sinead McCauley, from whom he has been separated for several years, is making a determined effort to get on with her own life among the small community of 522 residents of the island.

The day after the manslaughter conviction, Sinead, a mother of one daughter, was back at her job in one of the island's only two co-ops, Comharchumann Oilean Arainn Mhuir Teo.

She had given her evidence in court and not another word was she willing to say about the case or her island life or her love for another islander in a relationship that started after her marriage break-up.

Sinead was granted a court order some years ago barring her husband from her home.

Community leaders always ready to speak out on issues that matter to islanders remain silent about what Stephen Boyle did, including his own sister Noirin Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh.

She is also the manager of the co-op Comharchumann Oilean Arainn Mhuir Teo, and works with her brother's separated wife. She would only say: "We are professionals."

A kilometre away in their cottage just off a narrow boreen, the family of Paul Boyle, the victim in the tragedy, are still trying to come to terms with the verdict.

His brother Frankie politely accepted commiserations on the family's pain but added that nobody in the house wished to discuss it further.

Sinead, who has reverted to using her maiden name, doesn't have any worthwhile pictures of her wedding to Stephen Boyle, even if she wished to keep them.

Their photographer, who is no longer a wedding snapper, was sued by them following a botched job because he was rushing away from the nuptials to get an afternoon ferry off Arranmore back to the mainland.

Judge John O'Donnell admonished the photographer and told the couple in Dungloe District Court in June 2000: "Wedding photos are a source of pride in any house and the damage done in this case could never be made up."

He awarded them €2,000 compensation but it didn't make up for their heartbreak.

Sinead said at the time: "I'm still very upset. The pictures are the only record we have of the day and money can't change that."

Sunday Independent

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