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tragic loss Det Garda Colm Horkan's father pays tribute to his 'proper gentleman' son on first anniversary of death

Marty Horkan unveiled a plaque dedicated to his son at the spot where he was shot in Castlerea

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Detective Garda Colm Horkan

Detective Garda Colm Horkan

Detective Garda Colm Horkan

A year has passed since the death of Detective Garda Colm Horkan, and his loss wears heavily on all who knew and loved him.

His dad Marty struggles to find words to describe how immensely proud he was and is of his eldest son.

A year has passed since Marty received the life-shattering news Colm had been taken from his family, friends, colleagues and community.

He was killed in the line of duty in the early hours of June 18, on the main street of Castlerea.

Today, colleagues of Colm’s came together to honour him and two other colleagues Garda Henry Byrne and Detective John Morley, who were killed in the line of duty 41 years ago.

Marty Horkan unveiled a plaque dedicated to Colm at the spot where he was shot.

A second plaque was unveiled by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris outside Castlerea station dedicated to Colm, Henry Byrne and John Morley.

Reflecting on the last year, Marty shakes his head almost as if he still can’t believe it all happened.

“Grieving, grieving, grieving, I miss him awful. He was a lovely fella, absolutely, a proper gentleman. He really was.

Wiping tears from his eyes, Marty adds, “I’m not saying that because he was my son.”

Over the past year, the Horkan family have heard countless stories of how much Colm positively impacted those around him with his kindness, respectfulness, and innate goodness.

“So many people came to us from this area (Castlerea) and Ballaghadereen, they came to the house and told us how kind and good he was.

“He was out during the pandemic, even though he was a detective, he was out around the area calling to old people, seeing were they alright. That was the kind he was.

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Garda Colm Horkan at his graduation from Templemore College in 1996

Garda Colm Horkan at his graduation from Templemore College in 1996

Garda Colm Horkan at his graduation from Templemore College in 1996

“The amount of mass bouquets - if ever anyone should be in heaven, he should,” he says softly.

“Thousands upon thousands, from every county in Ireland, we have got mass bouquets and letters from people, complementing the guards.

Marty believes Colm’s death made people appreciate gardaí and their public service, which tragically has seen 89 members pay the ultimate price.

“When we are sleeping at night, they are out there protecting us.

“To me, it woke a lot of people up,” he says.

The Horkan, Byrne and Morley families stood together, united in mutual respect and understanding of the horrendous toll their inexplicable loss has taken.

The support received from the wider garda family and their community has helped the Horkan.

Marty found the anniversary “very difficult” but is effusive in his gratitude to Colm’s garda colleagues and his own community.

“They paid a lovely tribute to him here. And the guards have been wonderful to us, I must say.

“Barry O’Brien (Assistant Commissioner) came to us at the house yesterday for two hours.

“Two of our local lads who are guards came, and the banter we had with Barry was just lovely.

“Today, it is wonderful just to think about what the gardaí do.

“The way people have supported us, in our own area the football club, what they have done for us is unreal.

“That’s the beauty of living in the country instead of a city,” he says.

“The night he got shot, my son’s partner is a Sergeant in Ballaghadereen, they got the word (first).

“When they landed here, he was still on the street, and the ambulance came for him.

“They came back to the house; it was 1.30 am and by 3 am our house, and the area was packed with people. The word went out, and people started arriving. People came all through the night. We had great support.”

Speaking at the unveiling, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said it was a solemn day and a day that celebrates the heroic life of Detective Garda Colm Horkan.

He said Colm loved being a Garda Síochána member, and he devoted his life to the people of Ireland and especially the people of Roscommon and Mayo.

“Colm Horkan served the people of Roscommon for 24 years between Castlerea and Ballaghaderreen.

“He was honest, he had integrity, he had a good work ethic, and he was community-minded.

“He loved being a member of an Garda Síochana, serving the people and the communities in both here and Ballaghdereen.

“Perhaps he knew he would be a good fit for An Garda Síochana, and that’s what guided him to a life in public service.

Detective Garda Colm Horkan devoted his life to the people of Ireland, especially the people of Roscommon and Mayo.

“In a life that was cut short, he had already made a significant impact on the lives of so many people. And that is why his absence has been so strongly felt over the past year and will continue to be felt by those who knew and loved him for many years to come.”

Commissioner Harris said a hero is a term sometimes loosely used but to paraphrase poet Maya Angelou he said, “I think a hero is a person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”

“We know that from the outpouring of grief following Colm’s death stories of compassion and kindness, expressions of love and appreciation that Colm was very much a hero.

Colm died while trying to make this country a better place.

And in his last act, he defied fear and epitomised the bravery that members of An Garda Síochana display on a daily basis.”

It’s that bravery, together with his decency, his loyalty and his courage in life that now defines him in death.”

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