Garda Commissioner pays tribute to members who made ‘ultimate sacrifice’

Annual ceremony to mark gardaí killed in the line of duty returns following Covid-19

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris paid tribute to the 89 gardaí who made the "ultimate sacrifice" and had been killed in the line of duty at an annual memorial ceremony held in Dublin Castle.

Mr Harris said the memorial was "the most important day of the year" for An Garda Síochána, which was a "solemn occasion to honour our fallen colleagues".

The ceremony held in the Dubh Linn Garden on Saturday marked the return of the annual memorial in person after two years of Covid-19 restrictions.

“At the centre of these events are our 89 fallen colleagues whose lives were taken in active service over the course of our organisation’s history, each one dedicated their lives to serving and protecting our nation,” Mr Harris said.

The memorial was a chance to remember those gardaí who made the “ultimate sacrifice while fulfilling our mission to keep the people of Ireland safe,” he told the event.

When gardaí go to work every day they “don’t know what danger awaits them”, he said. “The valour and bravery demonstrated by our fallen colleagues gives us hope for a safe society free from fear or danger,” he said.

The Garda Commissioner added that the courage of gardaí killed in service came “at a heavy cost” to their loved ones and family left behind.

The event was attended by family and friends of gardaí killed in service, including relatives and friends of Detective Garda Colm Horkan, who was shot dead in Castlerea, Co Roscommon in June 2020.

The names of all gardaí killed in service were read out during the Christian and interfaith ceremony, which also heard a prayer for the deceased members of the RIC, the RUC, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Speaking at the event, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said this year marked the centenary of the formation of An Garda Síochána, which she said was one of the "greatest success stories" of the early years of the State.

“Over its first 100 years An Garda Síochána has faced a succession of challenges, from establishing the trust of the people after what had been years of unrest and war, to the Emergency during the years of the Second World War, the Troubles, the growth of organised crime, more recently the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

On each occasion individual gardaí had “risen to the challenge” to keep the public safe, she said. Ms McEntee said the “tragic deaths” of gardaí left a “void” in the lives of their families, friends, colleagues and communities.

The Minister noted it was almost the 10th anniversary of the killing of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was fatally shot during an armed robbery at a credit union in Co Louth, in January 2013.

The ceremony heard details of the death of the first member in the line of duty, Henry Phelan, who was killed in 1922.

Phelan had joined the force aged 21 in May 1922, and had been stationed in Callan, Co Tipperary. Known for his keen interest in sport he had decided to set up a hurling team with some colleagues and was in a shop buying hurleys for the team when he was shot dead by two gunmen.