The whole of Ireland is gutted by the murder of detective Adrian Donohoe, a devoted family man who was a perfect role model for the rest of society, his state funeral has been told.
Thousands of mourners endured sleet and near freezing temperatures to show their respects for the Garda officer, who was remembered as a wonderful father, husband, brother, son, colleague, community leader, GAA man and friend.
Mr Donohoe was killed as he confronted a gang of men on rural roads near his home on the Cooley peninsula, Co Louth, near the border on January 25.
Chief celebrant Fr Michael Cusack, of St Joseph’s Redemptorist Church, in nearby Dundalk, told the service no one could adequately put into words the pain inflicted on his wife Caroline – herself a garda – and their two young children, Amy, seven, and Niall, six.
In heartbreaking scenes, Amy took to the altar the mobile phone she used to phone her father to say goodnight when he was on duty, and the television remote control she used to hide from him.
Niall took a football that he and his father played with, as well as his favourite Manchester United jersey.
Other mementoes included the detective’s GAA football jerseys, from local clubs in his native Co Cavan and his adopted home Co Louth, framed family photographs, a tie and cufflinks – to symbolise his style – as well as his Garda cap and identification.
Streets around the church came to a standstill long before the funeral began as up to 1,500 members of the public stood shoulder to shoulder with 2,500 uniformed gardaí in the biting, winter cold.
Such was the overflow it could not be accommodated in a massive marquee erected outside and a parish hall opened up for the turnout.
Many businesses closed their doors while civic buildings around the town flew the Irish tricolour at half mast.
President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, several senior government ministers and Cardinal Sean Brady were among scores of dignitaries who came from throughout Ireland, on both sides of the border.
Also there were Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott and Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford.
Others included GAA broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Siptu president Jack O’Connor.
In a stirring homily, which was greeted by spontaneous applause in the packed church, Fr Cusack said Mr Donohoe was a loyal, honest, virtuous and faithful man who laid down his life for his community.
“The whole country is gutted by what has happened,” he said.
Fr Cusack said the murdered detective was the perfect role model for everybody and the callous mowing down of his innocent life was a reminder that there was good and evil.
“So many people today no longer offer their services freely to the community but Adrian always did,” he said.
The priest told Mr Donohoe’s wife there were no words that could bring her husband and the father of her children back.
But he hoped the support of her family, friends as well as colleagues in the Garda and the GAA would give her some comfort.
Addressing anybody who had information about the killing, he said: “If you have a semblance of goodness in you, for God’s sake turn these people in.”
Detective Garda Joe Ryan, who was on duty with Mr Donohoe when he was killed, was among those who carried his tricolour-draped coffin, with his Garda cap and gloves atop, into the church.
Uniformed colleagues formed a guard of honour as the cortege arrived to be met by the force’s entire senior command, led by commissioner Martin Callinan.
Inside the hearse were wreaths which spelled out Dad, Brother and Son.
Along with his own family, the chief mourners included Mr Donohoe’s parents Peggy and Hugh, his parents-in-law Bridie and Stephen, his sisters May and Anne and brothers Colm, Martin and Alan, as well as his brothers-in-law and sister-in-law.
In a moving eulogy, Colm said his brother died doing the job he loved and was born to do.
“Whatever Adrian did, whether it was on the football pitch, as a husband, father, son or a guard, he did it to the best of his ability,” he said.
Mr Donohoe told the detective’s widow that she was the love of his brother’s life, and that the whole Donohoe family would always be there for her and their children.
“To Caroline, I want to thank you. Thank you for making Adrian the happiest, proudest husband and dad,” he said.
“It’s plain to see from the love you had for each other, you both met the loves of your lives.”
He added that the family took comfort that Adrian had packed so much into his short life.
“He lived to his fullest,” he said.
Choking back tears, as he described his brother as both big in stature and big in heart, he said he was “generous to a fault” and had so much to live for.
Also taking to the altar, Mr Callinan said no-one could adequately express the great sense of loss and revulsion felt by the Donohoe family, the force and the wider public in the wake of the cold blooded murder.
“We, Adrian’s colleagues, are committed to ensuring that we bring the perpetrators responsible for this callous crime to justice,” he said.
The Garda chief said his force was forever in debt to the local community for the outstanding generosity shown to the Donohoe family and his rank and file.
He added: “Adrian, Detective Garda, husband, father, son, brother, colleague, community leader, GAA man, friend, we will never forget you.”
Mr Donohoe, murdered as he escorted staff with cash from his local credit union, is the first police officer shot dead in Ireland for 17 years since garda Jerry McCabe was gunned down by an IRA gang in a post office raid.
Mr McCabe’s wife Ann and his retired Garda colleague Ben O’Sullivan, who survived that attack, also joined mourners in Dundalk.
Mr Donohoe was buried with full honours at Lordship cemetery on the Cooley peninsula a short distance from his home and St Patrick’s GAA club were he trained youngsters.
A reward of €50,000 has been offered for information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of the gang involved in Mr Donohoe’s murder, put forward by the Irish League of Credit Unions, which represents branches in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Gardaí have appealed to mourners who were at a wake and funeral last week in the village of Clogherhead in Co Louth for information on a stolen car used in the detective’s murder.
The 08-D navy Volkswagen Passat was taken from a home in the village on January 22 and used in the attack three days later before being found burnt out beside a forest in south Armagh.
The police killers can expect to serve 40 years in jail if convicted.