Gardaí stand shoulder to shoulder in support of lost officer and family

Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 00:00

It was one of the biggest gatherings of uniformed gardaí in the State’s history

As the cold drizzle fell and a sharp January wind whipped across the streets surrounding St Joseph’s Redemptorist Church in Dundalk yesterday, it was clear how the shooting dead of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe had both wounded and galvanised An Garda Síochána.

When the hearse crawled into the yard at the front of the church, colleagues of the dead man from the detective unit in Dundalk helped family members carry the coffin, and formed a tight body of men around the pallbearers.

Behind them came his heart-broken family, led by his wife, Caroline, who is also a garda based in Dundalk, and the couple’s two children, Amy (7) and Niall (6). Then the estimated 2,500 uniformed gardaí who had poured slowly in off the road.

Shoulder to shoulder

They were led by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and his senior colleagues, Deputy Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan the only woman among them.

When they fell in behind the chief mourners and made their way into the church, the main body of gardaí who knew they would be standing in the elements, for lack of room inside, filled the yard, wrapped up in their waterproof coats.

Among the mourners were Det Garda Donohoe’s parents, Peggy and Hugh; parents-in-law Bridie and Stephen; sisters Mary and Anne; brothers Colm, Martin and Alan; brothers-in-law Derek, Kieran and John; sister-in-law Angela and a number of nephews and nieces.

Det Garda Joe Ryan, who was on duty with Det Garda Donohoe when he was killed last Friday night, was present.

The message was clear: the Garda had come to bury one of its own and they stood shoulder to shoulder in support of him, his family and each other. It was one of the largest ever gatherings of gardaí in uniform in the history of the State.

The Tricolour-draped coffin, topped with Det Garda Donohoe’s cap and gloves, arrived from his home in Lordship, Bellurgan, in the picturesque Cooley peninsula in north Louth.

Fresh faces

Judging by the fresh faces in a lot of the Garda uniforms, many of them would still have been in national school when gardaí last met like this to bury a colleague struck down by gunfire – Det Garda Jerry McCabe, who was killed during a Provisional IRA robbery in Adare, Co Limerick, in 1996.

His widow, Ann McCabe, was present yesterday, as was Det Garda Ben O’Sullivan, who was shot and wounded in the 1996 attack.

Inside the church, Derek Deloughrey, the twin brother of Det Garda Donohoe’s widow and himself a garda based in Limerick, moved to the altar to explain the significance of some of the gifts being brought up.

Det Garda Donohoe’s young daughter Amy brought up the mobile phone she used to call her father before she went to bed when he was working nights. She also took the television remote control she would hide from him.

His son Niall’s gifts suggested a strong bond between father and son based on their common love of soccer: his favourite Manchester Utd jersey and the ball he had kicked around so often with his dad outside their family home.

Other gifts included the dead man’s GAA jerseys, from his local club in his native Co Cavan, and the county jersey he had worn. The No 9 jersey from St Pat’s GAA Club, for whom he played and coached in his adopted county, were also brought to the altar, as were a tie and cuff-links – representative of his sense of dress – and his Garda cap and identification card.

Perhaps the most emotional part of proceedings unfolded when Det Garda Donohoe’s brother Colm, a garda based in Swords in north Dublin, came forward to eulogise him. He said that when he told his own young daughter that her uncle Adrian was gone to heaven, she commented innocently: “He was big.” He told Det Garda Donohoe’s widow, Caroline, that she was the love of Adrian ’s life, his soul mate.

‘Proud husband and dad’

“To Caroline, I want to thank you. Thank you for making Adrian the happiest, proudest husband and dad. It’s plain to see from the love you had for each other, you both met the loves of your lives. He lived to his fullest.”

He added: “Whatever Adrian did, whether it was on the football pitch, as a husband, father, son or a guard, he did it to the best of his ability,” he said.

The Garda Commissioner also addressed the congregation, saying that under him the Garda force would do all in its power to bring to justice those responsible for the murder.

“Adrian, detective garda, husband, father, son, brother, colleague, community leader, GAA man, friend, we will never forget you.”

Among those present in the congregation were President Michael D Higgins, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Northern Ireland Minister for Justice David Ford.