- with reporting from Cormac O'Keeffe
A giant of a man like no other was laid to rest before his time.
A man who, his brother said in a moving tribute, had provided the template as to how one should live life and get the most out of each and every day.
Fighting tears, Brendan Horkan told mourners his brother Colm was “the glue that held it all together”.
Thousands of mourners ringed St James’s Church, Charlestown, Co Mayo, in silence as Brendan’s words resounded around the town via loudspeakers erected in front of the church. Many stood motionless, in a disbelieving daze since the detective garda’s death on Wednesday night.
Detective Garda Horkan was shot dead in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, when he intervened in an incident unfolding close to the town’s garda station. A man has been charged with his murder.
“Colm was a gent. He was a son and brother like no other, and a wonderful uncle,” Brendan said.
“He had all the values you would associate with a good and decent human being. He was kind. He was considerate, selfless, and, above all, loyal to the core.”
Brendan said that time spent in his brother’s company was precious and that “there was always a laugh and a joke to be had”.
And he spoke of the 49-year-old’s “disarming, beaming smile that could light up a room and brighten up many a dark hour and day. He leaves a legacy of wonderful memories which we will cherish and hold dear in our hearts forever as we say goodbye to a giant who brought such joy and happiness to us all for 49 fantastic and brilliant years.
He finished by saying simply: “He was here. May he rest in peace.”
Earlier, gardaí lined the streets of Charlestown as the coffin carrying Garda Horkan’s body was carried to St James’s Church, the same church where he had been baptised. Members of the Charlestown Sarsfields GAA club walked in the cortege, wearing their jerseys.
Other members of the community also gathered in large numbers around the church to show support for Mr Horkan’s father Marty, his sister Deirdre and his brothers Aidan, Brendan, Dermot, and Padraig.
The coffin was draped in the Tricolour, with his cap and gloves laid on the top.
Among symbols left at the altar to represent his life at the beginning of the service were his garda notebook, a Charlestown Sarsfields jersey, and a Liverpool FC tie pin.
His brother Dermot explained the significance of each. With his voice breaking with emotion, he told the congregation: “The Liverpool motto, ‘you’ll never walk alone’, summed up Colm perfectly. He never let any of his family or friends walk alone.”
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris addressed mourners, saying his colleague’s courage was on show the night he died when he stepped forward to be counted at the crucial moment. And he assured his family that his name would never be forgotten.
“Detective Garda Colm Horkan epitomised what all of us as members of An Garda Síochána should strive to be,” said Mr Harris. “He was approachable, well known and respected in his local community.”
In his homily, Monsignor Tommy Johnston described the garda as one of nature’s gentlemen.
“The gunshots that rang out ... echoed not just in the town of Castlerea but right across the country, spreading a story of tragedy and sadness and the loss of life of a detective garda,” he said.
“Colm Horkan was a good man, one of nature’s gentlemen. That and more, as someone said.
“Death brings sadness and grief and loneliness and loss, and it also brings questions, questions that may take us beyond ourselves in our search for answers. In the case of Colm, questions have us wonder why did this tragedy happen, why did Colm die, why was this life which had so much to offer taken away so soon?”
At the close of the service, gardaí gathered around Garda Horkan’s coffin to fold the Tricolour. It was then presented to Mr Harris, who in turn presented it to Mr Horkan’s father Marty. Det Garda Horkan was pre-deceased by his mother Delores and twin sister Colette.
Six gardaí then lifted the coffin and carried it from the church in a slow march. A large crowd was gathered outside the church to watch as the coffin was taken to a private burial.