'Adams knows who sanctioned Jerry's murder. The pain never goes away'
Ann McCabe still lives every day with her grief after the shooting dead of her husband Jerry, write Paul Williams and Wayne O'Connor
The two youngest McCabe children were in their rooms preparing for the third day of their Junior and Leaving Cert exams when they heard their mother's screams downstairs.
By the time they had rushed down and reached the bottom step, she was on the floor, totally inconsolable.
Their father, Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, had been ambushed by a hail of bullets from AK47s brandished by two men in balaclavas. They fired 15 rounds at his car near Adare 20 years ago today. Three hit Det Gda McCabe, killing him instantly.
His widowed wife Ann has never forgiven his killers.
"I haven't changed really in the last 20 years. I've learned to live with it but I haven't changed and I don't think I ever will change. The pain is still there."
She says her husband's death was no accident.
"I didn't accept it from day one. If you walk up to a car and start shooting indiscriminately into it, you stop, and then you start again... murder is what I would call it, and I would still call it murder."
The 1994 IRA ceasefire had broken down four months before the killing, and the Army Council initially denied any involvement in the attack.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams later confirmed the killing was not authorised by the Army Council but by a lower-level authority within the IRA.
"He knew from day one who they were," said Ann, "and he knew what operation they were on.
"It was sanctioned by the people he represents. The IRA, his comrades.
"He said they weren't involved, it was somebody making mischief. He rephrased that recently when there was another murder. He said 'a bit of mischief-making'. Somebody making mischief to Jerry.
"Sinn Féin knew who they were playing ducks and drakes with."
Pearse McAuley from Strabane and Jeremiah Sheehy, Michael O'Neill and Kevin Walsh from Limerick were jailed for manslaughter by the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
All four men had originally been charged with Detective Garda McCabe's murder - but the State was forced to accept the manslaughter plea when key witnesses refused to co-operate after IRA intimidation.
"I reckon they were spoken to before they got into the box, and that is why. We had widespread intimidation of witnesses," said Ann.
"That is what really got me angry, and that was the start of my campaign."
McAuley had previously escaped from a prison in Brixton while awaiting prosecution over an IRA terror campaign in England and had also jumped bail in Ireland two months before the shooting.
Gardaí believe it was Walsh who fired the fatal shots.
"It was plain murder. It wasn't manslaughter - so then, when the sentencing came out, we were shocked at that but we had to accept it.
"Behind the scenes I got myself very active in keeping them inside in jail, because I reckon there was a deal done between our government and the IRA," said Ann.
"They wanted to make them part of the peace process. I had confrontations with Mr Adams on a few occasions and he literally told me they were part of it."
In 2006, with the 10th anniversary of her husband's killing approaching, Ann confronted the Sinn Féin leader at a fundraiser in New York.
"Mr Adams came on the stage and Gerry (Gregg - who was making a film about Det Gda McCabe's death) had told me the minute questions from the floor start, stand up.
"I said: 'My name is Ann McCabe and my husband was murdered by the IRA, who you represent, in Adare. One question - can you condemn his killing? And there are two people on the run - can you tell us where they are?'"
Unhappy with Mr Adams's reply, she walked out.
"I was determined to try and get answers. I knew I wouldn't get them because I think he lies. He lies through his teeth."
Det Gda McCabe and his colleague Detective Garda Ben O'Sullivan were escorting a cash in transit van at 6.50am on June 7, 1996, near the village of Adare, when their car was struck by a 4x4.
Of the 15 rounds fired, one hit their car, three hit and killed Det Gda McCabe, and 11 struck Det Gda O'Sullivan. He miraculously survived.
A family friend rang Ann to see if she had heard of an accident involving gardaí.
She tried to contact Henry Street garda station in Limerick city centre but could not get through.
"At that stage, there was a knock at the door and I think I shouted, 'Take your time,' because the bell was ringing a bit.
"I didn't know who he was at the time, John Kerin (detective inspector in Henry Street at the time), because I hadn't met him before. I just remember his face.
"The look on his face and the colour of his face will always be in my mind. He told us that Jerry was dead.
"I just kept shouting Jerry couldn't be dead, 'Please tell me it's not Jerry.'
"I think I was on the floor at that stage. I could hear the screams of the two kids and then all hell broke loose."
The grief is something Ann has always struggled with but something she is determined to address.
She knows she is not the only woman widowed at the hands of garda-killers and understands the pain families of deceased gardaí go through, such as in the cases of Tony Golden and Adrian Donohoe.
Gda Golden was shot by a dissident republican last year while helping a victim of domestic violence. The killer then shot himself.
"Tony Golden's was a different murder but Adrian Donohoe's killers are still walking around," said Ann.
He was killed during the robbery of a credit union office in Co Louth in 2013.
His wife Caroline recently retired from the force to care for their two young children.
"There are people around there who know who they are and until they are brought before the courts, Caroline Donohoe will never have peace. This is going on and on for her."