Garda Adrian Donohoe profile: ‘Big in heart with so much to live for’

Family man was the 87th member of the force to be killed on duty

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was murdered seven years ago by Aaron Brady during an armed robbery at Lordship Credit Union near Dundalk, Co Louth, grew up in the tiny Cavan village of Kilnaleck.

The son of Hugh and Peggy Donohoe, he spent his childhood on a small farm in the village alongside his siblings Alan, Colm, Martin, Anne and Mary.

Standing at 6ft 4in as a teenager, he made a formidable midfielder for the local Gaelic football club Crosserlough, before going on to represent Cavan at under-21s level.

In July 1994 he made the decision that would define his life, entering Templemore Garda College as part of an intake of 100 recruits. Two of his brothers would follow him into the Garda.

The recruits were divided into classes of 25 each. In Adrian's class was Caroline Deloughrey, from Kilkee in Co Clare, who he would go on to marry and who would lead the mourners at his funeral 20 years later.

Also in the class was Colm Horkan, the garda detective who was shot dead with his own weapon in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, in June. Donohoe would become the 87th member to be killed on duty. Horkan would be the 89th.

“The chances of having one of our class shot to death was 14,500 to one. But it has happened to us, not once, but twice,” former classmate Gda John McCarthy wrote earlier this year after Colm Horkan’s death.

Donohoe’s “wit and humour” in training would never be forgotten, he said. “It often came at just the right time to lift the mood if you were feeling down or falling behind.”

Three years after graduating from Templemore, Donohoe and his new wife settled down in Lordship on the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth. They had two children, Amy and Niall, who both attended Bellurgan National School, directly across the road from the Lordship Credit Union where their father would be shot at the age of 41. The children were six and seven at the time of his death.

The family holidayed frequently in Caroline’s home town of Kilkee where Adrian and his children were often seen playing on the beach.

In Louth, Donohoe played and coached with his local club, St Patrick's GAA. Remembering him after his death, club chairman Alan Duffy called Adrian a "true role model" who was well-loved and whose passing had left a "huge void".

"We all miss Adrian, " he said. "People like that, they don't come round too often."

Both Adrian and Caroline were assigned to Dundalk Garda Station where Caroline worked with the immigration unit and Adrian was appointed a detective garda. In his role as a garda on street duty, he developed a strong reputation for proactively targeting local crime.

As part of his duties, Donohoe had to occasionally escort credit union staff as they collected money from various branches for deposit in a secure location.

This was his assignment on the night of January 25th, 2014. The first half of the escort was undertaken by two unarmed gardaí, Alan Lynch and Tony Golden. A year and a half later Gda Golden would become the 88th garda to die on duty when he was shot dead while dealing with a domestic violence case.

Donohoe and his colleague Det Gda Joe Ryan took over later in the evening to provide an armed escort for the cash collection. When he was ambushed and shot at 9.30pm at Lordship Credit Union, he was just 4km from his home.

Donohoe was a loyal, honest, virtuous and faithful man who laid down his life for his community, Fr Michael Cusack would tell his funeral five days later.

He was a loving family man who gave himself to his wife and two young children, his job, the GAA and the community he lived in, the priest told some 4,000 mourners, 2,500 of which were uniformed gardaí who stood for several hours in the street outside at the State funeral.

"Adrian, Det Gda Donohoe, husband, father, son, brother, colleague, community leader, GAA man, friend, we will never ever forget you," then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan told mourners.

His brother Colm said Adrian was “big in stature” and “big in heart, with so much to live for”.