Colm Horkan: Charlestown says goodbye to 'one of nature’s gentlemen'

The bridge is where, a young boy, he would throw sticks into the river below, with other lads from the town his age.
Colm Horkan: Charlestown says goodbye to 'one of nature’s gentlemen'
Picture: Collins

By Neil Michael and Cormac O’Keeffe

The windswept town of Charlestown said goodbye today to a “good man and one of nature’s gentlemen”.

Moments before he was carried by colleagues up Chapel Street to St James’ Church for his funeral mass, his body was carried part of the way by friends and family past his family’s Dew Drop Inn where he grew up, and over Chapel Street Bridge and then up past the Chapel Street home where he was born.

The bridge is where, a young boy, he would throw sticks into the river below, with other lads from the town his age.

Little did any of them ever believe they would all gather again all those years later in such heart-wrenching circumstances.

All along the route people stood in silence behind lines on either side of hundreds of Gardaí, standing two metres apart.

They stood firmly to attention as he passed slowly by this part of a town he would have left each day for the 26 years he served as a guard for his work in Ballaghaderreen Garda Station in neighbouring Co Roscommon and in the last few weeks of his life, in Castlerea where he died.

At exactly 12 noon, everybody in the church was asked to stand for a minutes silence .

Gardaí across the country also observed one minutes silence at their stations.

Picture: PA
Picture: PA

Also at the same time, President Michael D Higgins held a memorial service on the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

The national flag was flown at half-mast and President Higgins observed one minute’s silence at the Peace Bell in the grounds.

Sergeant Sinead Riley, Sergeant-in-Charge at Áras an Uachtaráin, rang the Peace Bell at the start and end of the memorial ceremony.

As the service got underway, symbols of his life were laid at the foot of the altar.

Garda Tommy Sullivan brought up a notebook to symbolise the “26 years of exemplary service” to the gardaí.

Matthew Horkan brought up his green and white Sarsfield Charlestown GAA jersey that he “always wore with pride”.

Emma and Barbara Horkan brought up his car keys.

Mourners heard he “loved his Audi and it shone just like him”.

Det Garda Colm Horkan
Det Garda Colm Horkan

Cian Casey brought up a CD to symbolise his love of music.

“He was always first in the queue for Ticketmaster,” mourners were told.

Aiden Horkan brought up a photo to symbolise the strong bond he had with his family.

Grainne Marren brought up one of his Tommy Hilfiger shirts.

“His lived for fashion and was always looking his best,” mourners were told.

Finally, a tie pin from his beloved Liverpool was brought up.

Mourners heard: “The Liverpool motto summed him up perfectly: You’ll never walk alone

He never let any of family or friends walk alone.

The chief celebrant of the Mass, Monsignor Tommy Johnston, Parish Priest of Charlestown, in the homily later told of how he heard a news reporter on an early morning bulletin say how the community of Castlerea was “shocked and deeply saddened by the death of a detective garda in the town”..

The name has not yet been released but he said he knew he was from Mayo.

“And so, another community will be shocked and saddened by this death, and I thought, I pity the priest who has to do that funeral,” he recalled.

“Little did I think I would be that priest and that the Detective Garda was Colm.”

Picture: Collins
Picture: Collins

Of his death, he said: “The gunshots that rang out in the early hours of Wednesday morning 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.

“Service is such an apt word for Colm for he truly was a man of service, dedicated and diligent.

Colm loved his life as a guard and gave it his complete commitment.

He added: “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.

“I cannot answer those questions, but it seems when God takes the young he takes only the very best.

“Why? Has God some special task for them?

“Has God some special task for Colm?

Gardaí in Cork pay tribute to Det Garda Colm Horkan. Picture: Dan Linehan
Gardaí in Cork pay tribute to Det Garda Colm Horkan. Picture: Dan Linehan

He incorporated a tribute to Detective Garda Horkan at the end of his homily from one of his closest childhood friends - one of the boys that would have thrown sticks into the river from the Chapel Street Bridge.

He wrote: “Colm was a cherished member of our community, a brother to everyone, young and old.

“We grew up together, played together and performed in school plays together.

“Now we are in shock and deep mourning.

We are heartbroken for Colm’s family, colleagues and many, many friends.

They added: “It will take a long, long time for our community to come to terms with this senseless act of violence against our brother, Colm.”

Bishop-elect Paul Dempsey, Father Dermot Meehan, Diocesan Administrator,Monsignor John Doherty and Father Joe Kennedy CP, Garda Chaplain, Co-celebrated the mass.

Detective Garda Horkan, who was shot dead on Wednesday night in Castlerea in Co Roscommon just moments before his shift was due to end,

Before it started, after lunch, he had watched a race meeting with his father Marty.

He would later tell neighbours how proud he was as he waved goodbye to his son, never imaging for one second that it would be the last time he would ever again see him alive.

He was killed after he responded to a call about an incident on the Main Street in Castlerea.

The 49-year-old had only recently been stationed in the town and transferred to the detective unit.

Before the move, he had been based at the garda station in Ballaghaderreen.

Stephen Silver, 43, from Aughaward, Foxford in Co Mayo was remanded in custody on Friday night charged with the garda’s murder.

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