Tributes pour in for murdered Cross’ Rangers star

December 13, 2011

By Brónagh Murphy

While tributes poured in for Crossmaglen Rangers star James Hughes, a man appeared in Dundalk District Court charged with his murder.

James was shot dead at point-blank range while sitting in the rear of a taxi outside a house in Cluain Ard, in the Lis na Dara estate, Dundalk in the early hours of Sunday morning.

An eyewitness reported seeing a man calmly walk across the street and fire several shots into the vehicle, fatally wounding Mr Hughes and injuring another passenger, 21-year-old Patricia Byrne, and the 48-year-old taxi driver, Anthony Callan.

Shane Rogers (32) from Deery Terrace, Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan appeared in court on Tuesday morning charged with the murder of Mr Hughes and two counts of attempted murder.  Rogers was arrested shortly after the attack when he presented himself at Carrickmacross Garda Station.  Following the brief hearing, he was remanded in custody to appear before Cloverhill District Court on Tuesday 20th December. There was no application for bail.

Disbelief and devastation

The shocking and brutal killing of James Hughes and left the community in Crossmaglen and the wider area reeling and tributes have been pouring in for the popular 35-year-old father of three.

On Tuesday James’ remains were removed from Dublin to the Keady home he shared with his partner Jenny and sons.  It is believed his remains will be waked in Keady for one night before being removed to the Hughes family home in Lismore, Crossmaglen, where he will be waked until his funeral, which is expected to be on Friday.

Parish Priest Fr. Joe McKeever said the entire community is numb with grief at his tragic passing.
“James was hugely well-known because he was a very personable, friendly and sociable member of our community and James’s legendary kindness to people has compounded the shock and grief that the community greeted this news with,” he said.

Captain of the Rangers Seconds team, James Hughes was an integral part of the club.  His life-long friend and fellow club-mate, Tony McEntee, spoke of the devastation his death has brought.

“We were friends all my life. We went to school together and grew up together,” he said.  “He was the most genuine, honest man you could ever meet. He was the only man you could really rely on to do anything for you. Nothing was ever too much bother for him, no matter what you asked of him he would help you out. He was always there for you.  His family is just distraught. Everyone is still in shock and can’t In a statement, the club said James would be deeply missed.

“The Committee, players and members of Crossmaglen Rangers GFC are shocked and saddened by the untimely death of our friend and colleague James and along with the entire local community are devastated at this tragic event.
“James was a valued and committed member of our club, part of our successful senior team panel for over 10 years, he won three All-Ireland Club medals and more recently captained our seconds team to League success in 2010. He will be sadly missed by all of his friends and colleagues within the club.
“We extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam,” the statement read.

The murder was roundly condemned by politicians.

SDLP Councillor Geraldine Donnelly said the community would help the family through this difficult time: “There is an enormous sense of disbelief and grief in Crossmaglen at the news of James’ death and particularly that his life was taken in such a violent way.  James was a popular, pleasant, kind person, full of fun and passionate about football with his beloved Crossmaglen Rangers. His passing is so horrific for the Hughes family and the thoughts of people here are with James’ father James, his siblings and children as they try to come to terms with this massive loss.
“I have no doubt that the local community will rally around the family to give them support in the coming difficult days and months that lie ahead,” she said.

Expressing his sympathy to the Hughes family, UUP MLA Danny Kennedy said: “I am shocked and saddened by the news of James Hughes death. It really is hard to make sense of the events which led to the tragic death of James. My thoughts are with his family during this very difficult time.’
“It is hard to comprehend how a night out socialising with friends could end how it did. It was a completely mindless attack and I hope that those responsible can quickly be brought to justice for this murder,” he added.

Sinn Fein Crossmaglen councillor Terry Hearty, said: “James was an extremely well-known and popular young man and devoted father. He was involved in the local community through his lifelong association with Crossmaglen Rangers and he was a familiar face around the town with many, many friends,” adding that the family is shocked and devastated.

MP Conor Murphy said his thoughts are with Mr Hughes’ family and friends: “The loss of a loved one is deeply traumatic in any circumstances but it is all the more disturbing for the family of this young man to have lost him in such a violent manner.”