An assault on society
The price of human life is inestimable, but last Friday night the value of one human life was put at an estimated €4,000, and utterly devalued. Raiders at the Lordship Credit Union in Co Louth murdered Det Garda Adrian Donohoe in their unsuccessful attempt to steal a far larger sum. The late garda’s brave action in confronting the gang stopped the raid, but at the cost of his life. The robbers, without warning, shot and killed him before they escaped with the proceeds of their bloody crime.
His violent death at such a young age (40), leaving his wife – Garda Caroline Donohoe, a serving colleague – and two children, is a tragedy for his family and for his community, where his voluntary work was greatly appreciated. It is a blow to the morale of the Garda, a mainly unarmed body, for whom the lethal violence of criminals remains a daily threat and an occupational hazard its members face as they carry out their duties.
This cold-blooded murder also represents a direct challenge to the State, when one of its protectors dies in a brave attempt to uphold and defend its laws and values. Last week’s lethal attack on Det Garda Donohue is indeed an assault on society, one that should not be minimised. His death is our loss too.
This latest murder of a garda is the first since 1996, when the IRA gunned down Det Garda Jerry McCabe. This time, the identity and motivation of the gang that carried out this heinous act has yet to be established: whether that be a criminal gang claiming some spurious political affiliation; or one with links to the drugs trade, which now accounts for so much violent crime.
Ireland in recent decades has seen a surge in major criminal activity, which has been largely drug related and invariably violent. Last week’s murder is a sharp reminder of the ruthless nature of the threat such criminals now present, both to the Garda and public. At times, it may seem like an unequal battle is being waged, where a largely unarmed police force is pitted against increasingly well-armed and financially well-resourced criminals.
The success of An Garda Síochána in containing the rise in serious crime, without departing from the principle of a largely unarmed force – and without suffering too many fatalities or serious injuries – vindicates a long-standing policy established in the early years of the State.
The murder of a garda has become, thankfully, a rare event. This capital offence formerly carried a mandatory death sentence on conviction. It was rarely applied and has since been abolished. Instead the penalty facing those found guilty of the murder of Det Garda Donohue’s murder is mandatory life imprisonment for a 40-year term, a fitting punishment for such a truly heinous crime.