By Cormac O’Keeffe
FAMILIES of gardaí who died in the line of duty united yesterday to help each other and future survivors.
The Garda Survivors’ Support Association (GSSA) aims to rebuild the lives of people after the trauma of losing a loved one.
"This association represents the beginning of an important and long-overdue support structure for those left behind following the death of a member of An Garda Síochána," said Ann McCabe, GSSA interim president. Ms McCabe’s husband, Det Gda Jerry McCabe was shot dead during an IRA robbery in Adare, Co Limerick, in June 1996.
"This association is all about understanding, and about teaching others to understand, the loss which so many of us feel. It is a case of survivors helping survivors. Although we all know the hurt of being left behind, until now there has been no way of keeping in touch with others who understand and shared our bereavement."
The GSSA was launched at an emotional ceremony at Westmanstown Garda Sports Centre in Clonsilla, west Dublin, yesterday.
Ms McCabe said the association was the brave initiative of founding patron Dermot O’Donnell, president of the Garda Representative Association. The association would teach the wider community of the "personal pain and suffering" caused by violence and crime, whether the crime had so-called political associations or not.
"It is also my hope that people will come to see and respect the role of the gardaí in Ireland, and of the police in other jurisdictions, as they attempt to enforce the rule of law which makes life safer and more pleasant for us all. In other words, our loved ones have died so that society, and the rule of law, may continue."
Breda Hand, whose husband Frank was murdered during a bank robbery in Drumree, Co Meath, in 1984, said only people who were in their situation could understand their grief. Frances Morley, whose husband, John, was murdered during a bank robbery in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, in 1980, said the association would be of great benefit to the children of gardaí who died in the line of duty.
"We can appreciate our loss, but the loss for children is unquantifiable," she said. She said it was very difficult for children to comprehend a violent death in particular.
Mr O’Donnell thanked Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy for attending the launch and welcomed representatives from police survivor organisations in the North and Britain.
Christine Fulton of the UK Care of Police Survivors Association gave a moving speech about the death of her husband and presented the GSSA with a plaque and a donation.
Commissioner Conroy said the association would help those who might face tragedy in the future.
* Contact GSSA at Westmanstown Sports Centre, Clonsilla, Dublin 15. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tel: 086 891 3667.