Colleagues remember Det Garda Colm Horkan one week after his death

Colleagues remember Det Garda Colm Horkan one week after his death
Retired Sergeant John Hynes and Garda Maeve Carthy light a candle in memory of Garda Colm Horkan. Pictures: Liam Reynolds

By Christina McHugh in Castlerea

The night shift at Castlerea Garda Station began like so many others on Wednesday, June 17. For Detective Garda Colm Horkan there was nothing particularly unusual about the night. A few short hours later he was dead, shot with his own gun, on the cold streets of the town he had policed for many years.

At exactly 12.30am one week later, the time Colm Horkan took his last breath as he lay surrounded by traumatised colleagues, paramedics and local Parish Priest Fr John McManus, who whispered the last rites in his ear, colleagues gathered at the spot where he died.

As the hour approached, Garda colleagues from Castlerea Garda District made the short walk in silent procession from the Garda Station at Barrack Street to the junction of Main Street and Patrick Street where he died one week ago.

At that spot, they were joined by gardaí from surrounding districts and by a number of retired members of the force.

Seven nights ago this was the scene of panic as garda cars and emergency services personnel raced to the scene. One week on you could have heard a pin drop as a short prayer service remembered Garda Horkan.

Fr. John McManus leading a prayer service in Castlerea
Fr. John McManus leading a prayer service in Castlerea

The people of Castlerea are still reeling from the shock of what happened last week, feeling the pain of Garda Horkan’s family and colleagues.

The dark cloud that floated in over the town last Wednesday will take a long time to shift.

Summer-time may have arrived in West Roscommon but there is an eerie chill in the air.

Like he had done last week, Fr John McManus led the gathering of about 100 people in prayer.

He spoke of the “challenging time” faced by Colm’s family, by the gardaí and by the community. He prayed for all who mourned and missed him.

On behalf of the gardaí, Inspector Tom Colsh spoke of the “lives and communities” that had been destroyed “in a couple of seconds one week ago”.

Inspector Tom Colsh
Inspector Tom Colsh

He noted that in the midst of all the grief the support of the communities of Castlerea and Ballaghaderreen was “overwhelming”.

On behalf of the gardaí he thanked the people for their “incredible support”.

The news agenda may have moved on. But in Castlerea, in Ballaghaderreen where Garda Horkan also worked for years, and in his home town of Charlestown, across the border in his beloved Co Mayo, what happened on the streets of Castlerea last week is all anybody is still talking about.

So many thousands of words have been written in the last week about Detective Garda Colm Horkan.

At his funeral mass, Brendan Horkan described his brother as “the glue that held the family together".

A real sense of community spirit and community support is the glue that is now binding the Horkan family, the wider garda family and three rural communities together.

For other families also caught up in this tragedy Castlerea is also remembering their pain and rallying to support them.

Over the last week, so many tears have been shed, not alone in counties Roscommon and Mayo but across the nation as the country watched a father receive the folded tricolour that lay across his son’s coffin during a funeral mass on Father’s Day.

We watched as Marty Horkan’s son was raised shoulder-high one final time for the short walk to the adjoining cemetery, where he was laid to rest beside his late mother Dolores and twin sister Collette, who died 15 years ago.

In Castlerea, the group of people on the streets of the town at 12.30am one week on was again moved to tears as they went back on night duty or home to their beds thinking about the fragility of life.

“So fill to me the parting glass. Good night and joy be with you all.”

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