Castlerea killing sparks memories of two gardaí murdered nearby 40 years ago

Castlerea killing sparks memories of two gardaí murdered nearby 40 years ago
Young Kevin Morley, grandson of the late Garda John Morley at the memorial at Shannon's Cross. Pic. Mick McCormack

Detective Garda Colm Horkan’s death in Co Roscommon has brought back memories of the deaths of two other gardaí in the county.

Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne were both gunned down at Shannon’s Cross, about 30 minutes from Castlerea on July 7, 1980.

They had been two of four gardaí in a patrol car responding to an armed robbery at the Bank of Ireland in Ballaghaderreen.

They collided with the getaway car and the raiders, who stole IR£41,000, opened fire.

One of them shot directly at the windscreen of the patrol car.

The other two raiders then opened fire on the patrol car killing Garda Byrne.

The married father-of-three was posthumously awarded the Scott Gold Medal on September 16, 1982.

Detective Garda Morley managed to shoot back and chased after one of the raiders as they escaped on foot but he too was killed.

Also married with three children, he too was posthumously awarded the Scott Gold Medal in 1982.

Although sentenced to death by hanging for capital murder, the raiders had their sentence commuted to 40 years in prison.

Peter Pringle, who had always denied any involvement in the raid, had his conviction overturned in 1995.

And both Colm O’Shea and Patrick McCann, the other two arrested in connection with the raid, were released in 2013.

When in July 2017 Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan unveiled a monument at a ceremony to honour the two gardaí, he paid tribute to the 86 other gardai killed in the line of duty.

Addressing the assembled crowd, he said: “The men and women of An Garda Síochána continue to go about their duty throughout the country not knowing what challenges they may have to face during their shift.

"They may have to find the courage to face down a criminal with a knife or a gun.

“It is important we pay tribute to them and acknowledge their willingness to put themselves in the way of harm so that the rest of us can go about our lives secure in the knowledge they are there to protect us and will do their utmost to do so.”

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