Gardaí killed in 1980 bank robbery in Co Roscommon remembered

Monument in honour of John Morley and Henry Byrne unveiled in Loughglynn

Anne Byrne and Frances Morley, wives of the slain gardaí pictured at the ceremony. Photograph: Brian Farrell

Anne Byrne and Frances Morley, wives of the slain gardaí pictured at the ceremony. Photograph: Brian Farrell

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has unveiled a monument in Co Roscommon to honour two gardaí killed in the line of duty after a bank robbery in Ballaghaderreen in 1980.

Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne lost their lives on July 7th 1980, after intercepting armed bank raiders at Shannon’s Cross, just outside the village of Loughglynn in west Roscommon.

Speaking at the unveiling of a monument in their honour on Friday, Mr Flangan remembered all gardaí killed in the line of duty.

“John and Henry are present in our thoughts today, but I would also like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the 86 others members of An Garda Síochána who have given their lives protecting the citizens of this State since its foundation.

“As we gather here this afternoon, the men and women of An Garda Síochána continue to go about their duty throughout the country not knowing what challenges they may have to face during their shift - when they may have to find the courage to face down a criminal with a knife or a gun.

“That is the nature of the job; but it is important that we pay tribute to them and acknowledge their willingness to put themselves in the way of harm so that the rest of us can go about our lives secure in the knowledge that they are there to protect us and will do their utmost to do so,” he said.

Anne Byrne and Frances Morley, wives of the slain gardaí pictured at the ceremony. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Anne Byrne and Frances Morley, wives of the slain gardaí pictured at the ceremony. Photograph: Brian Farrell

‘Fallen heroes’

The families of the two men were in attendance and stood with hundreds of people from Roscommon and Mayo who assembled to pay tribute to the memory of the “fallen heroes”.

Shane Morley, son of Detective Garda John Morley and Paul Byrne, son of Garda Henry Byrne spoke on behalf of their families and thanked the organising committee for preserving the memory of their fathers in such a “fitting and beautiful way”.

Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council Orla Leyden said she was “proud to stand with the community of Loughglynn to honour the fallen heroes” and said that their “heroic service will be remembered for generations to come”.

The shooting dead of the two young officers shocked the nation at the time. Both were married with young families. Morley (37) had been a well-known Gaelic footballer and Byrne’s grandfather was among the 15 visionaries who witnessed the apparition in Knock, the Mayo parish where both he and John hailed from.

Garda Byrne was killed instantly after one of the raiders opened fire when the Garda and getaway cars collided at Shannon’s Cross.

Detective Garda Morley exchanged fire but was fatally wounded.

The three raiders, who had taken £35,000 from the Bank of Ireland branch in nearby Ballaghaderreen, were later apprehended after an extensive manhunt.

They were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging for capital murder. Two weeks before their execution dates in June 1981 their sentences were commuted to 40 years imprisonment with no parole.

One of the men, Peter Pringle, always denied involvement in the crime and his conviction was overturned by the High Court in 1995 due to discrepancies in evidence. The other two, Colm O’Shea and Patrick McCann, were released in 2013 after the Supreme Court ruled that a prisoner serving 40 years for capital murder was entitled to normal remission.

Members of the Morley and Byrne families planted two Oak Trees at the monument, while Assistant Garda Commissioner Ann Marie McMahon laid a wreath in their memory.

A commemorative book ‘Remembering Our Fallen Heroes’ depicting events surrounding the incident was launch by the minister.