Commemoration brought tears, says widow of Garda Jerry McCabe

Commemoration brought tears, says widow of Garda Jerry McCabe
Chief superintendent Dave Sheahan with Ben O'Sullivan & Ann McCabe outside the Garda Station in Adare. Co Limerick. Pic: Brian Gavin Press 22

Standing side by side in the calmness of today's early morning sunshine, Ann McCabe and Anne O'Sullivan stood silent to remember the gun attack on their garda husbands 20 years ago, writes David Raleigh.

It was 6.55am, June 7, 1996, when Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and Detective Garda Ben O'Sullivan, were targeted by an IRA gang, as both officers provided an armed escort for a mail delivery van.

Det McCabe was killed instantly when a bullet from an AK47 machine gun severed his spine as he sat in the Garda car.

Scene of the shooting
Scene of the shooting

His partner Ben O'Sullivan was shot 11 times, but miraculously survived.

At a commemoration ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of her husband's shocking death, Ann McCabe, along with her daughter Stacey, laid flowers outside Adare Garda Station, which stands beside the spot where Det Gda McCabe was murdered in a hail of automatic gunfire.

Members of the force performed a guard of honour and members of the Garda Band played a haunting rendition of the hymn, Abide With Me, which was sung at Det McCabe's funeral Mass.

Chief Superintendent David Sheahan, who laid a wreath, led senior members of the Limerick Garda Division, including Superintendent Derek Smart, Superintendent Tom O'Connor, and Superintendent Jim Ryan, in a minutes silence at 6.55am.

"For me, today is the same as 20 years ago June 7," Ann McCabe said speaking afterwards.

Ann and Jerry McCabe
Ann and Jerry McCabe

"Nothing ever changes," she said pausing in her thoughts, adding, "but you learn to live with it and get on with it".

Speaking publicly for the first time since the atrocity, Ann O'Sullivan, wife of retired Det Gda Ben O'Sullivan, said: "I found it very hard today."

"It brought back every hour of this time 20 years ago."

"It brought tears," she said.

Ms O'Sullivan, who at the time worked as a nurse in the accident and emergency department at Limerick Regional Hospital, said: "I was off work that day and I got a phone call from a colleague of mine...she said I've bad news for you."

"I just got up from bed and went straight out to the hospital, and then I heard all the bad news, that Jerry had passed away and Ben was in Resus."

"You can imagine it was crazy... It was horrendous," she added.

"You have to move on, but those days come back too...They have their own space and time," she said.

The two courageous women have been a constant support to one another through the the dark days of the last two decades.

They promised that support would continue to abide until their own final days.

"Yes, we will. Absolutely 100%," they said.

Jerry McCabe
Jerry McCabe

Det McCabe's daughter Stacey, wept as she paid tribute to her late father, beneath a plaque in memory of her murdered father: "In the midst of sadness, we pray for thanksgiving for the inspiration and example we received in and through Dad."

"We pray in thanksgiving for the love, light, and laughter he bright to our lives," she added.

An emotional Ben O'Sullivan said: "This morning's ceremony has brought me to my knees really."

He said the shooting in 1996 was still "crystal clear in my head".

"You're never expected to forget something like that. You're not supposed to forget that."

"You're supposed to take up the gauntlet and accept that it happened; you cannot turn the clock backwards."

He said he had "come to terms" with "the atrocity that took place this morning 20 years ago", but "will never forget what happened".

"Jerry and myself joined the detective branch in 1973, on the same day, and, for the length of time we served in the Garda Siochana after that, I could safely say that there was scarcely a day we were separated because we worked as a team."

"Wherever you saw Jerry you saw me. Regrettably, today you see me without Jerry, regrettably."

He added: "A smile is useless unless you give it away. Every time I saw Jerry a smile was evident, and that's a comforting (memory)."

"Today is the first day of the part of my life that is left. I cannot change the part that's gone," Mr O'Sullivan said.

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