Prayers are being said at Masses across Ireland today for murdered police officer Adrian Donohoe.
Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady said he had been deeply saddened by the shooting, which has not only sparked revulsion among the tight-knit garda fraternity and with political leaders but has also plunged the wider society into a deep sense of dismay.
Cardinal Brady said: “It has shocked and horrified the entire community. The taking of innocent life is always wrong. Detective Garda Donohoe lost his life as he carried out his duty in the service of society.
“I appeal to all of society to unite in rejecting such wanton violence and criminal lack of respect for human life.”
Detective Garda Donohoe, a 41-year-old father-of-two, lived and socialised in the area where was killed while on duty on Friday night.
Originally from Co Cavan, he came from a dedicated policing family – his widow Caroline and two brothers also serve in the force.
He leaves behind a young son and daughter.
Local sources said they believed a criminal gang and not dissident republicans were responsible for the murder, but police have said it is too soon to know.
Friends and former colleagues described Mr Donohoe as a popular community figure, diligent policeman and devoted family man.
He was part of a specialist cash escort unit tasked to the Lordship Credit Union at Bellurgan, Jenkinstown close to the Irish border.
The rural premises were closing when the armed gang struck just after 9.30pm.
Det Garda Donohoe was shot without warning as he jumped out of his patrol car. He had not drawn his own garda issue weapon.
Gardaí said four men were involved in the botched robbery and escaped in a dark coloured vehicle. It is not known whether they fled across the border into the North or headed south.
Det Garda Donohoe was the first garda officer to be killed in Ireland for 17 years. Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was gunned down in similar circumstances outside a post office in Co Limerick in 1996.
Last night his widow Anne McCabe expressed sympathy to the Donohoe family and said there should be a mandatory 40-year sentence without remission for anyone who murders a member of An Garda Síochána.
Even those who did not know the slain officer, who was an avid GAA fan, have expressed disgust at his senseless death.
There was a steady stream of people to sign a book of condolence which was opened at Dundalk garda station where he was based. Floral tributes were also handed over.
People in the border area, some visibly distressed by the news, said they had been left sickened and stunned.
Paul Moloney, 36, from Dundalk said: “I just can’t believe something like this could happen. It is just so sad.”
Joe Crawley, 34, who lives a mile from the murder scene, said: “It is just shocking. I am angered, disgusted and saddened at the killing. I have never felt such an intense mixture of feelings. It was totally unnecessary.”
Last night an extensive police cordon remained around the crime scene. Uniformed officers could be seen scouring the bushes and hedgerows lining the country roads leading into Dundalk. A blue forensic tent had also been erected in the Credit Union car park.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan vowed to do everything in his power to catch the killers.
“Resources will not be an issue. We will put all our energy towards finding out precisely who was behind this robbery,” he said.
President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny led the tributes.
There was also cross-border and cross-party condemnation of the murder.