Gardaí around country turn out in force to lead somber tribute to colleague killed in line of duty
Twice in the last seven years, a sea of blue poured into towns in Louth to pay their respects to a fallen colleague.
Yesterday, a thin blue line linked across each garda division, across every county in the country, and clasped over a small Mayo town — an unbroken chain of grief and respect.
Gardaí — both individually and as an organisation — were robbed by Covid-19 of coming together to mourn Detective Garda Colm Horkan and line the streets of Charlestown in his memory, as they did in their thousands for Garda Tony Golden and Det Gda Adrian Donohoe before him.
Undeterred, the “Garda family” ensured a fitting tribute to Det Gda Horkan.
From Letterkenny to Waterford, from Dundalk to Bantry, from Westport to Dublin, uniform gardaí paraded in public outside designated garda stations in his honour.
Inside St James’ Church in Charlestown, at the start of the funeral Mass at 12pm, mourners were asked to stand for a minute’s silence.
In Garda Headquarters, Deputy Commissioner John Twomey led the minute’s silence across all stations.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney attended the ceremony in Phoenix Park, joined by representatives from the Defence Forces.
Nearby, President Michael D Higgins held a memorial service on the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin.
The national flag was flown at half mast and President Higgins observed the minute’s silence at the Peace Bell in the grounds.
Garda bosses were eager to ensure the State funeral for Det Gda Horkan had “as many of the trappings as possible” despite restrictions due to Covid-19.
In Charlestown, local gardaí took up positions along the streets as a Garda traffic car and seven motorbike outriders led the cortege, flanked by uniform officers, up Chapel St.
Six gardaí carried their fallen colleague’s coffin the final stretch into St James’s Church.
The funeral, which was streamed live, was attended by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.
On the two TV screens either side of the coffin — which was draped with the Irish flag and the garda’s cap and gloves — Colm’s warm smile beamed out.
His father Marty previously told family friends that he had been watching horse racing with his son on Wednesday afternoon, before he left their home for work in Castlerea, saying “bye” to him on his way.
Little could he have known that Colm would be returning home in a coffin.
He now joins a distinguished role of honour: 89 gardaí who have died in the line of duty.
It’s a club no garda wants to be a member of, but both they, and their loved ones, know it’s an ever-present possibility when they leave their house for work.
Colm was the second son of Mayo to be shot dead in the line of duty in less than five years, following the death of Garda Tony Golden in October 2015.
The shooting dead of Det Gda Horkan on the streets of Castlerea, Co Roscommon, just before midnight on Wednesday, reverberated across the island and beyond. PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne commiserated with Mr Harris earlier.
The Irish flag at the headquarters of Europol, the EU police agency, in the Hague, was flown at half mast, while a representative of the New York Police Department gave one of the readings in the church.
Mr Harris said Colm “epitomised what all of us in An Garda Síochána should strive to be”.
He reassured the family that they would receive the organisation’s “full support” in the months and years ahead and said: “Colm’s name will live on in An Garda Síochána”.
The formalities and trappings of the solemn occasion never overwhelmed the family’s private, harrowing, grief.
Colm’s brother Brendan said they were struggling to comprehend the shocking events of that “dark” night in Castlerea.
His said their emotions were “in turmoil” and that the reality of a man “cut down in his prime” had hit them “square in the face”.
He said Colm was a wonderful uncle, who had “all the values of a good and decent human being” — considerate, selfless and loyal.
Brendan spoke of Colm’s prowess and leadership on the pitch with his beloved Charlestown Sarsfields GAA Club.
Earlier, included among the offertory gifts was a Liverpool FC tie pin.
In a just world, Colm would have been sitting down with his dad last night to watch Liverpool play Everton.
Mourners were told the Liverpool motto — You’ll Never Walk Alone — summed Colm up perfectly: “He never let any of family or friends walk alone.”
Yesterday, the country joined his side as he made his final journey.