Tom Niland, the Sligo pensioner who was brutally attacked at his home in January 2022, will be laid to rest on Thursday.
Mr Niland passed away last Saturday evening at Sligo University Hospital, where he had remained on life support since the brutal attack last year.
The Western People reports that large crowds are expected to attend the funeral of the ‘much loved’ 75-year-old, which will arrive at St. Adamnan’s Church in Skreen this evening for Requiem Mass on Thursday 5 October at 12pm, with burial afterwards at St. Mary’s cemetery.
Tom, who lived alone, spent some 20 months on a ventilator and was unable to walk or talk. Last August, the farmer’s family spoke about how their beloved relative had been left paralysed from the neck down, as they thanked doctors for “never giving up” on Mr Niland.
The life-changing injuries were sustained during an aggravated burglary of his home in rural Sligo, during which he was “beaten to a pulp” before the perpetrators made off with a small sum of money.
He had his shoelaces tied together to make it harder for him to raise the alarm, however the seriously injured man managed to crawl onto the nearby roadside – the N59 Sligo to Ballina road – where he was found by neighbours. Initially, he was able to provide a brief description of what had happened, but soon fell into a coma.
Shortly after the assault, one of Mr Niland’s devastated relatives described his injuries as “grotesque”.
Three men with addresses in Mayo have been charged in relation to the attack and are currently on remand in custody. John Irving (28) and Francis Harman (54) are charged with assault causing serious harm and the false imprisonment of Mr Niland as well as aggravated burglary with a knife at the farmer’s home.
A third accused, John Clarke (24), also from County Mayo, was also served with the book of evidence on the same three charges last year.
A death notice posted to RIP.ie referenced the “excellent care” Mr Niland received at Sligo University Hospital, and said he is predeceased by his father Roger and mother Molly.
“Tom will be greatly missed by his family and many great friends and neighbours, especially the Kilgallen and Calpin families,” the notice reads.
Those sending condolences have remembered Mr Niland as a “kind, gentle and considerate” man who loved farming, and was a gentleman to his neighbours and friends.
‘MUCH LOVED AND RESPECTED BY EVERYONE WHO KNEW HIM’
Many have paid tribute to Mr Niland despite not knowing him, as they called for justice to be done, and for the family to take comfort in the care given to Mr Niland, and an end being brought to the long months of suffering. Many said they were saddened to learn of his death following the brutal assault.
“I didn’t know Tom but he has constantly been in my thoughts and prayers for the past 20 months. I ,like many others, felt horror that such a decent, hard-working and peaceful man was the subject of such a senseless act of violence. Sincere sympathy to Tom’s family, friends, neighbours and community. Thoughts with the staff of Sligo Hospital who cared for Tom. May Tom rest in perfect peace, he deserves no less,” one person wrote online in a message to Tom’s family.
Local parish priest Fr Michael Gilroy will be the chief celebrant at Mr Niland’s Funeral Mass. Paying tribute to the highly regarded local man, he told Western People:
“I’d imagine the whole community will be out to support the family as they always do. “Tom was an integral part of our community here and very much loved and respected by everyone who knew him and he had spent all of his working life in the community.”
He praised Mr Niland’s cousin, Michael Walsh, for his outstanding care of Tom, adding that people have been rallying around the family to support them as much as they can.
“We all wished and prayed he would make a full recovery but unfortunately that was not to be,” he said, adding: “There’s a profound sense of loss at his leaving us but also a deep sense of relief that his suffering is now over.”
The local paper reports that Mr Niland’s cousin Michael had remained with Tom for “several nights before he passed away” and had thanked friends, neighbours, and the many people who did not know Tom personally for their support during the ordeal.
He said that the family has received messages of support ‘from across the world’ while floral bouquets have been left outside his home.