CARRYING A HERO HOME Garda colleagues of Detective Garda Colm Horkan carry his coffin into St James’s Church in his native Charlestown on Sunday after he was killed in the line of duty last Wednesday in Castlerea. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Violent murder of Detective Garda Colm Horkan shocks county
Never have we placed more value on people like Colm Horkan than in recent months as the nation faced up to the frightening prospect of the deadly Covid-19 virus.
Gardaí, nurses, doctors and so many more frontliners continued about their work so that the rest of us could complain about having to stay at home.
They went out and faced the risk of Covid-19. We easily forgot all the other risks that go with serving on the beat for An Garda Siochána, the guardians of our peace.
And with a daunting time appearing to be easing for the nation at large, the reality of those everyday risks rocked all of us to our senses last week as news of the most unimaginable kind broke.
On a Wednesday night in Castlerea. When most of us would least expect it.
But as Colin Sheridan — serving as a commandant with the Irish Army in Beirut and, therefore, speaking as someone who would know — writes elsewhere in these pages, ‘Colm must have gone to work last Wednesday evening like a thousand evenings before; never once thinking it would end how it did, but always knowing it might’.
The gardaí are there to protect us from harm. To protect not just the law-abiding members of society but also to protect those who may stray from that path. As we see, all too often, that respect is not always mutual. Sometimes the lack of it has devastating consequences.
Detective Garda Colm Horkan left his home in Charlestown on Wednesday afternoon last after watching some horse racing from Ascot with his father, Marty.
You can well believe that the sports-mad garda was looking forward to more sporting action returning; the club and inter-county GAA season and, across the water, his beloved Liverpool resuming their quest for the Premier League.
Instead, he never returned to Charlestown alive as news filtered out on Thursday morning that stopped everyone in their tracks.
While there is turmoil in the USA currently over law enforcement, it has always, thankfully, been different here. The gardaí are of us. In a country where a sense of place and a sense of community permeate so strongly, the gardaí typify that. They have to.
We saw that at its best in recent weeks, gardaí all over Mayo and beyond putting their shoulder to the wheel as part of a nationwide meitheal did all they could to keep Covid-19 at bay. Those who had to isolate were checked-in by community gardaí, shopping collected, messages brought. You name it, they did it.
Those efforts were not taken for granted. They were greatly appreciated.
Anyone who has read about Colm Horkan this past week would know he was exactly the type of garda that would make such a positive contribution to local life, both in a working and personal capacity.
He was, as his first cousin Liam Breheny told this paper last week, ‘the epitome of what a garda should be’.
He paid the ultimate price for the risks that go with working with An Garda Siochána, working for all of us. A price no man, no family, no community, no society ought to have to bear. His death was an affront on us all, as Colin Sheridan said, he was one of us.
While the nature of his death will never be forgotten, the legacy of his life of service and of giving will always shine bright.