THE murder of Garda Tony Golden in Co Louth on Sunday night is in the first instance a tragedy and an outrage. In the second it is an attack on the integrity of this State, our democracy and the repeated and determined rejection of violence expressed by the vast majority of people on this island.
Garda Golden’s casual, unplanned murder is another heartbreaking example of the lethal legacy of bitterness and delusion used to enlist and corrupt young men and women in an evil exercise — the pursuit of minority political ambitions through violence.
Adrian Crevan Mackin, 24, who was charged with membership of an illegal organisation in January, shot Garda Golden, who, like most gardaí, was unarmed, when he escorted Mackin’s partner to a house in Omeath. Mackin shot his partner and then himself.
Mackin was just seven when the Good Friday Peace Agreement was signed in April, 1998, and though he pulled the trigger those back-room fantasists who warped the young man’s impressionable mind are at the root of the intellectual and moral bankruptcy, the persistent terrorism that has haunted this Republic since we achieved our independence. Those who filled Mackin’s mind with the idea that political violence is a legitimate means to achieve their aims are the vectors of the cancer that to this day casts a dark and criminal shadow over this country.
The murder again raises pressing questions about the continued existence of the IRA irrespective of whatever rebranding, whatever realignment has taken place. This single act says more than all the repeated assurances and self-serving bleating of those who would have us belive that the IRA, in whatever form it takes today, has “left the field”.
That Mackin was so misled will be of little consolation to Garda Golden’s widow Nichola and his three children — all of whom are under eight years of age. It will be little consolation to his wider family and the colleagues and friends who knew and respected him. It will be of no consolation at all to the vast majority of people on this island who support the police forces that stand between the communities they serve and protect and terrorist organisations of all hues.
That the murder took place in a domestic rather than a terrorist setting is immaterial. The killer was on bail for terrorist charges and had a handgun, a weapon he did not hesitate to use with catastrophic consequences. How a person on bail for a terrorist charge could have such a weapon raises a series of questions, none of which can be easily ignored.
We were told in another context, when this Republic was under a different kind of attack, that anger is not a policy. However, in this instance anger must inform policy and the efforts of all security forces charged with confronting these organisations. Nothing will restore Garda Golden to his family but we can honour his memory, and the memory of all gardaí and defence force members murdered by terrorists, by pausing for thought and asking, and answering honestly, if some of the celebrations planned for 2016 might inspire the next Mackin to such a terrible, pointless end.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved