Belfast Telegraph

Tears in Fermanagh as locals share their memories of lost friends

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

A town regarded as the gateway to Fermanagh's lakelands, Lisnaskea was yesterday a solemn place, the heart torn from its community following the deaths of two people many regarded as friends.

'The Skea' as it's known by locals, just 10 miles from Enniskillen, was gripped by sorrow with people struggling to come to terms with the double tragedy months after the excitement of the G8 summit nearby.

Such provincial towns are often described as "tight-knit" and places where "everybody knows everybody else". Clichéd phrases perhaps, but it was abundantly clear yesterday that in Lisnaskea that really is the case.

On the main street of the town residents congregated in knots as they shared their memories of both Noel and Olivia Reilly.

When approached by this newspaper, three people burst into tears. Genuine pain and empathy was etched on their faces.

"I went to school with Noel's father and know all the family. I'm sorry, it's just too hard to talk about," a woman told us.

A neighbour of the 36-year-old also broke down as she spoke fondly of the Reilly family and Noel, affectionately known as 'Snowy'.

"The family live throughout Lisnaskea," she said. "His cousins and other family members are all well-known. God help them."

Colin McCaffrey from Lisnaskea Emmetts said Mr Reilly, who was unemployed, was a talented Irish dancer in his youth.

Mr Reilly's body was found at his home in Carrowshee Avenue at noon on Monday, a short distance from where Ms Reilly was found dead at her home in Trasna Way.

His parents were too distressed to comment yesterday. Neighbours in the cul-de-sac where Mr Reilly was said to live alone, described him as quiet but friendly.

Police remained at the scene yesterday afternoon.

As a care worker, Ms Reilly, who was not related to Noel, was someone who dedicated much of her life to caring for others, friends said. She balanced bringing up her nine-year-old son with tending to the elderly and vulnerable in the Lisnaskea area.

Ms Reilly was from the village of Kinawley, near Derrylin, roughly 15 miles from the town where she died.

A bar and a couple of shops are the focal point of Kinawley which has a population of less than 100. All its residents were said to have known Ms Reilly. That sentiment was reinforced by the number of mourners who visited her parents' home yesterday afternoon.

Just a few hundred yards away is a pub where Ms Reilly previously worked. The member of staff behind the bar yesterday wiped tears from his eyes as he told of his devastation. He said the young mother was "the best".

Friends of both were unsure whether they knew one another and mystery surrounds the cause of both deaths.

Given the lack of information, rumours were rife throughout Lisnaskea. Post-mortem examinations and toxicology tests will provide those answers in time.

Those tests were carried out yesterday on the bodies.

Parish priest Father Joseph Mullin said Mr and Ms Reilly's families had been plunged into a living nightmare, their grief compounded by uncertainty.

"The families are numb," he said. "It's a dreadful day for a parish. These are young people who have lost their lives.

"Lisnaskea is a close community and we share our joys and sorrows. It's a small community in many ways and in a town like this everybody is talking about Noel and Olivia so it's a common pain for everybody and in particular their families."

Thomas O'Reilly, a Sinn Fein councillor, said the area had been rocked by the losses.

"You don't expect this in a town like Lisnaskea," he said. "You see these things in bigger cities, people dying at the same time, but not here."

Tom Elliott, UUP MLA for the area, offered his condolences to both families, adding that it was too early to speculate on the causes of the deaths.

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