We can’t believe we are writing this. It is Sunday, October 15 and this morning we found out our Joe is gone. There are no words to describe the cold shock each of us received when we got the news. It is unimaginable what his parents and six siblings felt when they heard the same.
Joe was waiting at a bus stop on the Dublin Road in Limerick around 9.50pm on Friday after finishing a shift in the restaurant where he worked. A car that had earlier been involved in an altercation with the police and had driven off collided with another car and then hit Joe. The car fled the scene, and, at the time of writing, the driver has not been located.
Joe was killed.
Tomorrow, Monday, the magazine goes off to print.
It was all ready to go. Joe’s interview with the GALAS Person of the Year was to be his first cover story. Above the Team Letter, there’s a photo of a smiling Joe towering over the rest of the GCN gang at the GALAS. There are more pieces written by him inside, you’ll spot his name all over the issue. Joe was the lead contributor for the whole magazine, then, we found out he had passed. And here we are writing an obituary page for a 21 year-old.
It is unbearable.
You’d never think he was only 21. To be that talented, switched on and professional at that age is rare. He was confident and focused and completely reliable. He was also incredibly sweet, funny, gracious, and so, so cool. He would have had the Best Dressed Person at the GALAS in the bag if he wasn’t part of the organising team. “Give it to me anyway,” he quipped.
We first met Joe when he was a teenager through the New Voices collaboration with Belong To. He was one of a group of young LGBTQ+ people who wrote articles about their lives. That introductory piece? Joe was good. We stayed in touch and over that time, he would pitch incredible stories, all of which were published. He then came aboard as part of a college placement following a (very funny) email about how he was hating his current placement and asking was there a place for him in GCN, even though he was so far away.
There will always be a place for him in GCN.
From day one, story after story, he was a natural. He was so good, he immediately had to be commissioned for the magazine, and then every issue since. Many times, you didn’t need to assign him a feature, you just had to ask, “What would you like to write about?” and the gold kept coming. It was no surprise when he was nominated at the Smedia Awards for Young Journalist of the Year.
Then he had his Erasmus in Berlin, which he absolutely loved. Talk about living your best life. Still, he wrote. It was in his blood. Those working on the magazine would say to each other: “Another great one from Joe”. It was a given. He never let you down.
Coming back from Berlin, he continued his journalism studies in University of Limerick and was appointed Editor in Chief of the college’s Limerick Voice news site and print edition. In his pitch, he said he wanted to focus on inclusion, uplifting marginalised voices and improving accessibility. That says it all really.
You could say his voice being silenced is a loss to the writing community, the queer community, his hometown, but none of those would say enough. It is the world’s loss.
Everyone here has a wonderful memory about Joe, how impressive and sweet and thoughtful he was. For myself, even though we’d talked after that point, and it might seem an inconsequential moment, he sent a message two weeks ago about being appointed the Editor in Chief, and how delighted and proud he was of how far he’d come since that little Zoom call when we first met. After gushing about his talent, which was nothing new, I told him and meant it that working with him and seeing him doing so well: “It’s been a joy from start to finish.”
And now it’s finished.
And it has been a joy. An absolute joy.
All of our love to his poor family, to his parents; Tim and Marguerite, to his sisters and brothers; Sarah, Ava, Marie, Richard, John and Kieran, to his friends, to all who knew and who have lost this wonderful bright light.
Rest in Power, Joe, you were meant for great things. We’ll miss you.