Garda ‘influencer for the good’, funeral hears

Colm Fox’s pursuit of the truth was ‘forensic and relentless . . . It was never about ego; it was always about duty’.

Members of the Gardaí during the funeral of  Detective Superintendent Colm Fox at the Church of The Sacred Heart, Seabury, Malahide, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Members of the Gardaí during the funeral of Detective Superintendent Colm Fox at the Church of The Sacred Heart, Seabury, Malahide, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Three families attended the funeral today of Detective Superintendent Colm Fox.

First and foremost, there was his immediate family – his wife Edel, daughters Rebecca and Megan, and son David, together with honourable mentions for a much loved family pet, Cooper. His parents Dessie and Betty, sisters Gillian, Audrey and Creona; and extended family, parents-in-law, brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews, were there also.

There was the Garda Síochána family, represented by a phalanx of the most senior officers, including Acting Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin, together with several other commissioners, plus chief superintendents, superintendents and inspectors, and what seemed like hundreds of other uniform and plain clothes gardai, and the chairwoman of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily.

Thirdly, there was the family of the citizens of Ireland, many there in person but all others represented by Comdt Brian Walsh, aide de camp to the president, Michael D Higgins, and Comdt Barry Carey, representing the Government and Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

This was a funeral in which a dignified, grieving family was embraced by the garda family, who bestowed on proceedings a measure of solemity and formality through a ritual display marking the esteem in which Det Supt Fox was held.

The Church of the Sacred Heart in Seabury, part of Yellow Walls parish in Malahide, north Co Dublin, was packed tight – every pew filled, all side walls covered by people standing two and three deep.

There were perhaps 700 inside the church and outside, at least that number again, if not many more.

Det Supt Fox’s Tricolour-draped coffin lay before the altar, his garda hat and gloves placed on top, a large spray of ivory roses, hyacinths and greenery resting on the ground in front of it.

Perched among the flowers was a photograph of him, a big smiling face looking out.

During the funeral Mass as his career was outlined, it became obvious as to why so very many of Colm Fox’s colleagues came to pay their respects.

In a career spanning several decades, rising through the ranks from sergeant-in-charge of the drugs unit in Crumlin, to detective sergeant based in Dublin’s north inner city around Mountjoy and Fitzgibbon Street, to detective inspector in Blanchardstown and Cabra, to a stint as uniform inspector in Swinford, Co Mayo, and then his final posting, detective superintendent for the whole Dublin North division, he had earned that respect – and more.

His successful career of achievement and public service, notable too for the interest he took in the welfare of colleagues, came to a sudden and unexpected end on Saturday night when, inside Ballymun garda station, Det Supt Fox took his own life.

“Today, we find ourselves in a horrible mess – as a family, as a force, as friends – we are in the middle of a horrific tragedy,” said his brother-in-law, Fr Sean Donohoe, a Capuchin priest, the chief celebrant who was supported by no fewer than 14 priestly colleagues.

Welcoming mourners, Fr Donohoe merged Det Supt Fox’s profession and the promise of faith to which he subscribed. “He was a peace keeper, a guardian of the peace, and our prayer for him today is that he has the peace of heaven.”

The readings included the Book of Numbers – “May the Lord bless you and keep you” – and the Blessing of St Francis, read by Fr Donohoe’s own father. David Fox read from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans – “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others. . .”

In his life in the community, Colm was a sports coach and a scout leader. Family – the one that created him and the one he created – was central to him. Both families made him the man he was, said Fr Donohoe in his homily, at times pausing to keep his own emotions in check.

Colm was an influencer, he said. “The life and death of each of us has influences on others. We, together in the middle of this mess, we can influence,” he said.

“Colm only influenced for the good. And he was able to do this because he allowed people to influence him – special people, special people he called his work colleagues, his real friends in work and here in Seabury; his parents and sisters and his wonderful children, of whom he was so proud, and his perfect wife, my sister.”

And in the “horrible” mess of what had occurred, what could one do?

“We have a choice of what way to go,” said Fr Donohoe. “We can go under or we can do what Colm Fox would do: we can use this situation to influence for good.

“How can we do this? . . . We can do this by not being afraid to ask for help and we can do this by putting our families first. Colm, my brother in law, was a great guard. He was a son and brother like no other. He was the best Dad in the world and, I have to admit it, an absolutely perfect husband.”

In his eulogy, Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien, a close friend and colleague, spoke of the “total sense of disbelief, shock and devastation” at the fact of Colm’s death, to which was added a sense of bewilderment in discovering that Colm, “who embraced an enormous capacity for others, was for the past few weeks embarked on a lonely journey himself”.

As a policeman, Det Supt Fox was “among a very small group of individuals who stand head and shoulder above all others in the area of crime investigation”.

He saw investigating as “the best way to protect a people”.

“Colm’s sense of duty, ethical standards and personal integrity were impervious,” said Asst Comm O’Brien. “His own personal moral compass always faced due North. His pursuit of the truth was both forensic and relentless. . . Colm was also extraordinarily modest about his achievements. For him it was never about ego; it was always about duty.”

During the consecration, at the moment of supreme silence with the host held high, three garda buglers sounded Taps, their music filling the air to bursting as flag bearer colleagues lowered both the Tricolour and Garda standard in salute beside the coffin.

At the end of the Mass, garda pall bearers lined either side of the coffin and, slowly and with studied formality, raised the flag from it and folded it, section upon section, in on itself until it was a triangle.

Acting Commissioner Ó Cualáin then presented the flag, hat and gloves formally to Edel Fox.

As soloist Sharon Lyons sang Pie Jesu, accompanied on electric piano by Denice Doyle, the church emptied.

The congregation joined the throng outside where members of the public, uniform and motorcycle gardai provided a guard of honour for an esteemed colleague whose death is keenly felt and the explanation for it unknown.