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tragic 12 months 2020 has been year of pain for the brave men and women of an Garda Síochána


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The funeral of Detective Colm Horkan in Mayo

The funeral of Detective Colm Horkan in Mayo

The funeral of Detective Colm Horkan in Mayo

2020 was a year marked by an appalling tragedy for the men and women of An Garda Siochana and for wider society as a whole.

The shooting dead of Garda Colm Horkan in Castlerea on the night of June 17 yet again laid bare the dangers faced in the normal course of their duties by those who man the thin blue line.

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Det Horkan was shot dead in Castlerea

Det Horkan was shot dead in Castlerea

Det Horkan was shot dead in Castlerea

Colm's funeral was broadcast across the nation as his death resulted in an immense outpouring of sorrow and grief throughout the country.

In a touching eulogy, his brother Brendan described Colm as 'a gem'.

He said: "He had all the values of a decent human being, selfless and loyal.

"He touched the lives of so many people and always carried himself with dignity.

"Colm always believed in giving 100 per cent in everything he did. Those were the values instilled in him growing up.

"We are proud of how he led his life and he commanded respect where ever he went. His beaming smile would light up the room. He was always the bearer of good advice.

"He was a man of class and surely there must be a place for him at the top table in heaven."

Mechanic Stephen Silver (43) has been charged with Colm's capital murder.

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Garda Adrian Donohoe was killed in the line of duty

Garda Adrian Donohoe was killed in the line of duty

Garda Adrian Donohoe was killed in the line of duty

Reeling from the tragedy of Colm's death, the men and women of An Garda Siochana were, at the same time, watching on as the trial of Armagh man Aaron Brady for the 2013 murder of Garda Adrian Donohue took place at the Special Criminal Court.

On August 12, the long-running trial of the 29-year-old finally concluded with the jury returning a verdict of guilty to the charge of capital murder.

Detective Garda Donohoe was murdered while assisting with a cash lift from a credit union in Lordship, Co Louth in 2013.

At a press conference afterwards, Chief Supt Christy Mangan outlined the importance of the verdict following an investigation that had spanned three continents and taken seven years.

"Today is an important step," he said, "towards ensuring that all persons who are involved in the murder of Adrian and the subsequent provision of assistance to those involved will be brought to justice.

"We will never cease in our quest to bring accountability to those who have murdered Adrian. We owe that to Adrian's memory and to his family and to his friends, and to the people of Ireland.

"Right throughout the trial process we were obviously working away so our aim is to bring everybody who was involved in the immediate crime and robbery, but also the people who provided comfort and logistical assistance afterwards, they will face justice as well," he said.

"They murdered Adrian, they left the scene and went into Northern Ireland and then they thought that borders would save them but borders didn't save them… We will be continuing with our relentless pursuit of all the other people who were involved in this murder-robbery.

"There are people who provided logistical support after the robbery and the murder of Adrian so we're very interested in dealing with them as well. We certainly would hope to bring them to justice as well.

Mangan also expressed the mixed feeling among gardai today - both relief and upset - following the verdict.

"I would say there's a huge sense of relief. Adrian went to work the same as thousands of gardai go to work every day of the week to protect and service the community," he said.

Emotional

"It's difficult working out there on a normal day but when one of your colleagues is murdered it makes it very, very difficult for all involved.

"It is a very emotional day for everyone but we're professional investigators so we've already taken stock of where we are and we will meet early next week to decide exactly where we're going."

Mangan said the investigation spanned over three continents and assistance was provided in countries across Europe and the UK, Australia and North America.

He noted in particular the assistance of Homeland Security in the US for its "invaluable assistance to An Garda Siochana during the murder investigation. This unprecedented cooperation greatly assisted us as investigators".

"Communities on both sides of the [Irish] border have provided huge support to An Garda Siochana throughout the investigation," he added.

Brady had denied capital murder and said he had no involvement in the robbery that resulted in the detective's death.

But the jury of five men and seven women first found him guilty of the robbery before later returning with a majority of 10-2 finding him guilty of capital murder.

This was also a year that saw gardai in Dublin deal with one of the most harrowing cases that the state has ever encountered involving the killing of three children.

Children

Gardai were present when the children's father arrived back to his home in Newcastle, Co Dublin on January 25 to find the lifeless bodies of his nine, seven and three-year-old children inside.

A subsequent and detailed investigation by gardai led to a woman known to the three children being charged with their murder.

A second horrific tragedy involving the killing of a mum and her two children unfolded in Ballinteer, Dublin, in October.

Gardai believe the woman and her children may have lain dead in their home for a period of up to four days before their remains were discovered.

The body of the 37-year-old mum was found lying in an upstairs bedroom while the children, aged 11 and six, were found in a separate bedroom when officers from the Armed Response Unit entered the house.

A man known to all three has since been charged with three counts of murder.

Speaking this week, Pat Ennis, General Secretary of the Garda Representative Association said: "The number of potentially life-threatening incidents of violence and intimidation directed towards gardai this year has led to serious and painful injury but there is also a mental health aspect to the harm caused.

"The victims are most at risk but it affects the whole organisation. On top of this, the killing of three children in Newcastle, Co Dublin, and a mum and her two children in Ballinteer, present horrific and traumatising scenes for gardai to experience and investigate.

"Incidents like this, and the shooting dead of our colleague Colm Horkan in Roscommon and the conviction of Aaron Brady for the murder of Adrian Donohoe all add to the sense of trauma and anxiety. They serve as reminders to gardai - and their families, who are so often forgotten - of how dangerous their job is."

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