The bravery of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe and his innate love of family, policing, the GAA and community will not be forgotten.
Yesterday’s State funeral to honour the 41-year-old father of two who was killed last Friday, will ensure the name of the first Garda to be murdered while on duty in 17 years will be enshrined in the nation’s collective memory for years to come.
Like the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare, Co Limerick, in 1996, the manner in which the young detective was gunned down in cold blood outside a Co Louth credit union has touched a raw nerve among all levels of society.
The success of the Northern Ireland peace process had led many in the border region to believe such dark days were buried firmly in the past, despite the ongoing activities of dissident republican groups and other criminals in the area.
But such horrors have returned to Dundalk and the nearby Cooley Peninsula where Grda Donohoe was killed just a short distance from his family home.
The emotion and outrage arising from his brutal murder manifested itself in a huge turnout in freezing weather to witness one of the largest funerals ever held in the border town.
In an impressive show of strength, more than 2,500 gardaí — around one fifth of the entire force — turned out to show support for their fallen colleague at his funeral Mass at St Joseph’s Redemptorist Church.
The presence of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Matt Baggott, and several of his senior PSNI colleagues acted as a powerful symbol of the close relationship that now exists between the two police forces and how the authorities on both sides of the border will have a role in tracking Garda Donohoe’s killers.
Over two hours before the requiem Mass was due to start at 12.30pm, mourners began arriving to pay their respects. As large sections of the church were reserved for Det Gda Donohoe’s family, his colleagues and dignitaries including President Michael D Higgins, many were forced to remain outside in freezing wind and rain in conditions that mirrored the weather on the night the Co Cavan native was killed.
In Dundalk commercial life came to a standstill as shops and other businesses closed in a sign of communal respect. Onlookers along the way broke out into spontaneous bursts of applause.
The route of the funeral cortege from St Joseph’s Redemptorist Church in Dundalk to Det Gda Donohoe’s final resting place at Lordship Cemetery near his family home, traced the fatal final journey he made last Friday night.
Along the journey, the hearse bearing his coffin passed Dundalk Garda Station where he was based for the past 17 years, before travelling out along the main Dundalk- Carlingford Road past the Lordship Credit Union where his life was so brutally ended.
Further on along the picturesque but brooding beauty of the Cooley Peninsula, the sun fittingly broke through the overcast skies as it began its final leg to the graveyard in Lordship.
Members of the nearby St Patrick’s GAA club, where Det Gda Donohoe was a much-loved figure, provided a guard of honour as the local community brought their hero home. Then it was one last act of lowering his coffin at the cemetery looking out over Dundalk Bay before his wife, Caroline — also a garda stationed in Dundalk — was handed the Tricolour that had draped her husband’s coffin.
It was one of many moments of the day that will dwell in the memory, along with Fr Michael Cusack’s message to people who knew the identity of Det Gda Donohoe’s killers to turn them in and his impassioned plea for greater policing resources, especially in rural areas.
The priest’s homily, where he recalled the dread of elderly people living in his parent’s native village in Co Galway after the local Garda station had closed, must have made uneasy listening for many of the assembled guests including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Justice Minister Alan Shatter and other Government members.
Mourners also wept openly at the moving tribute paid by Det Gda Donohoe’s brother, Colm (a garda stationed in Swords, Co Dublin) who choked back tears as he said their family had been devastated by his “senseless and tragic loss” and the summing up of his life by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan: “Adrian, detective garda, husband, father, son, brother, colleague, community leader, GAA man, friend; we will never forget you.”
Outside the church, ranks of Garda stretched as far as the eye could see down the full length of St Alphonsus Road.
Yet, the most striking image remained the faces of Det Gda Donohoe’s two children — Amy, 7, and Niall, 6 — emerging from the church in the wake of their father’s coffin. Dressed in their Sunday best and standing on either side of their mother, Caroline, they appeared confused and overawed by the scale of the huge outpouring of grief for a hero they simply knew as “Daddy”.
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