‘We take the work of gardaí for granted’: Locals shocked by killing
Priest who said last rights for Det Gda Colm Horkan (49) describes aftermath of shooting
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris arrived in Castlerea early on Thursday afternoon to walk through the town, examine the crime scene, and address the local gardaí “stunned” by the killing of their colleague Colm Horkan.
The crime scene, near the junction of Main Street and St Patrick Street, was expected to be closed for most the day.
Local woman Breege Callaghan was tearful as she spoke of the well-known, well-liked garda who was passionate about the GAA and went “above and beyond” the call of duty every day.
“We were asleep safe in our beds and next thing we wake up to this? To hear of a young man killed at work. Nothing like this happens here. This is a tragedy and a double tragedy for this town.”
The shooting happened close to Henry Byrne Road, named after one of two officers shot dead in 1980 after a bank robbery.
Forty years later, most shops and other businesses were closed again after another fatal shooting of a garda.
“Hearing this, it brings back you back to the day that those two gardaí were killed - and they were Mayo men as well,” Ms Callaghan said.
“We take it for granted the work that the gardaí do, but this reminds you.
“There is a huge relationship between the community and the gardaí. In so many ways the gardaí are involved with the community, even through the GAA,” she added.
Parish Priest Fr John McManus hovered around the police cordon, providing words of comfort to people who looked troubled and confused.
“A number of people have rung me looking for reassurance after what happened. The effect it has had on parishioners is huge, even for those who don’t know him that well,” he said.
“There was a stunned silence in the community. People are shocked and traumatised. This is a small, market town with a large Garda presence who are very well known and liked.”
Fr McManus was one of the first to become aware of a serious altercation in the centre of the town. He received a call from the gardaí close to midnight and was informed that a garda was shot. He was called to the scene to say the last rites.
“When you receive a call from the gardaí you know it is never good news,” he said.
“The paramedics worked hard. A number of the garda’s colleagues were with me at the time,” he added.
Chairman of the Castlerea Town Team, Gareth Scally, said the community was in shock at the news.
He said the connection between the community and the local gardaí strengthened during the coronavirus period, making the loss even more palpable.
“This isn’t like in a city; we know the gardaí. We would know individual members of the gardaí and engage with them on a regular basis. Colm was very involved in the GAA in Charlestown and would have been very well known by the GAA in Castlerea,” he said.
The thoughts and prayers of the community were first and foremost with the family of Det Gda Colm Horkan, he added.
While some local people living in the town were permitted by gardaí to walk through the Garda roadblocks on the approach into the centre of Castlerea, the market town was blocked to all other members of the public and the streets were almost deserted.
The body of Det Gda Horkan was being taken on Thursday to Castlebar General Hospital for a post mortem examination.