‘Deep grief’ as anniversary of Det Garda Colm Horkan’s death marked

Horkan family says ‘life will never be the same without Colm’

 

The family of Detective Garda Colm Horkan have spoken of their “deep grief” on the one-year anniversary of his violent death.

Det Garda Horkan (49) was shot dead while on duty in Castlerea, Co Roscommon on June 17th, 2020.

In a statement, the Horkan family said the “one of a kind” detective — a son, brother, uncle, friend and colleague — was taken “long before his time”. He would have turned 50 in December.

“Sadly we never got the opportunity to say goodbye and to tell him how much we dearly loved him. Life will never be the same without Colm.”

Garda Colm Horkan was a “proud, popular, respected member of An Garda Síochána who loved his job and wore the uniform with great pride while serving the community for over 25 years”, they said. The family wrote too of how he was a “kind, thoughtful and a selflessly loyal gentleman to all he encountered”.

The State funeral of Detective Garda Colm Horkan is held at An Garda Síochána headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan
The State funeral of Detective Garda Colm Horkan is held at An Garda Síochána headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

“For the many people who knew Colm and those of you who didn’t, his infectious smile would brighten up any occasion and leave a lasting impression in any room or place.”

The Horkan family thanked everyone who has supported them over the last 12 months: “As we continue to carry the deep grief that we feel with the loss of Colm, the depth and sincerity of the support from so many people has given us great comfort.”

Det Garda Horkan’s death on Castlerea’s Main Street in Co Roscommon has left a “colossal void” at the station where he worked, the superintendent of the Castlerea division said.

Supt Thomas Colsh said it has been a difficult week for colleagues at the station and all members of the force who worked with Det Garda Horkan, as well as for his family and the communities he served and lived in.

That Det Garda Horkan was shot dead just metres from Castlerea station was “hugely difficult obviously for everybody at the time and devastating for all his colleagues”, Supt Colsh said.

“It was life changing really… It is something that every garda wants to go through their entire service never having to experience.”

The death of Garda Horkan, the the 89th garda killed in the line of duty, was a shocking reminder of the dangers faced by members of An Garda Síochana each time they put on their uniform, he said.

“Who knows what is around the corner for any of us. Sometimes you knowingly go into situations where you are putting yourself in danger,” he said.

Receiving such a tragic call from the then-superintendent of the district, Goretti Sheridan, on the night of June 17th 2020, was “devastating”, Supt Colsh recalled.

“Colm was not only a colleague; he was also a friend. To arrive at a scene where your friend and colleague is, and there were his friends and colleagues too having to be professional and work at the scene. It is a true testament to them,” he said.

Supt Colsh said members at Castlerea, as well as Ballaghaderreen station where Garda Horkan worked previously, have planted trees to honour his memory.

“It is a distraction in many ways… Nobody who knew Colm will ever get over his death, but in this job we are resilient by nature. You learn to move on but you never get over it. He will never be forgotten,” he said.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris noted it is a “very sad and difficult day” for the detective’s family, friends, colleagues, local community and An Garda Síochana.

As well as sadness, he said there is also “great pride” in the Mayo man who was loved and respected by so many. There is great pride too, Mr Harris said, in Detective Garda Horkan’s community spirit and desire to help and support others, and in his 24 years of dedicated service to An Garda Síochana and the State.

“Great pride in Colm’s bravery and selflessness to protect the lives of the people he served. Colm was the epitome of what all of us in An Garda Síochána should aspire to be — professional, hard-working, supportive, community-focused, and brave. Colm will never be forgotten,” Mr Harris said.

The acting Minister of Justice Heather Humphreys said her thoughts are with the family and colleagues of Detective Garda Horkan.

“He lost his life doing a job he loved — serving his country and community, as he had done with distinction for 24 years,” she said.

The night of June 17th will forever be etched in the memory of Castlerea parish priest Fr John McManus, who was called to the scene close to midnight to say the last rites.

“It was a traumatic night not just for me but for so many people… Still, after a year, I would describe it as there being an eerie stillness in the air,” he said.

Gardaí and the communities of Castlerea, Ballaghaderreen, and Garda Horkan’s hometown of Charlestown in Co Mayo, came together in mourning, he said. “The country was united in grief,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dermot Horkan said it has been a “hard, long year” since his brother was fatally shot. He told Shannonside radio station on Wednesday that the thousands of messages the family received have been a great source of comfort to his elderly father, Marty.

“He read every single card… Every condolence book and there were hundreds. He read through every name, and we all did when we would come to the house. Up to 15 or 20 cards a day,” he said.

Dermot Horkan said the family has received support from people “right across the globe and we cannot thank them enough”.

“It is hard to believe it has been a year… To ask me where the year went? It has been fast, but it has been tough alright,” he said.

A memorial garden and plaque will be unveiled in the town in memory of Det Garda Horkan, with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris due to attend a special commemoration event on Saturday.