Death of Tony Golden: Sorrowful homecoming for hero garda and family man
Quietly and without fuss - just as he had gone about his duties in life - the remains of Garda Tony Golden were brought home to his heartbroken young family.
In a most poignant and moving sight, his Garda cap rested on the coffin, which was draped in the tricolour, as three Garda outriders accompanied him on his final journey home.
It was a powerful image that said more than any words could about the heroic manner in which he had died, working against immense cruelty, malice and cowardice to protect the safety and welfare of the Irish people.
A golden light bathed the town of Blackrock in Co Louth - where Tony and his wife Nicola had made their home, rearing their children amid the bracing air of the seaside - as the hearse slowly drove the coastal road at 4.15pm yesterday.
It passed the Church of St Oliver Plunkett, where the funeral will take place at noon tomorrow. Inside, the organist was already rehearsing, in preparation for the State funeral.
The tide was out and the sweeping coastal views were spectacular as the hearse continued its solemn, deeply sorrowful journey to the family home.
Few were out on the streets, but those who were took a moment to pause in deep respect and to reflect on the loss of a good man, a devoted husband and a deeply loving father.
The tricolour flew at half-mast at the national school where Tony's daughter is a pupil.
The entire community has been crushed by this blow and spirits were at a low ebb in Blackrock.
With the remains finally home, the family's grieving could truly begin, as they attempt to comprehend what has been taken away from them. They must now take the first painful steps to try to make sense of it all and come to terms with the devastating realisation that they must carry on without him.
This time is for the family alone.
Earlier, space had been carved out to allow the family to get together to mourn, with a prayer service held in private at Dundalk Garda Station.
As she arrived, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan said Tony's widow Nicola and the wider family are "completely devastated".
"Tony has left behind Nicola and three young children who are going to grow up without their dad," she said.
"You only had to look around their home to see the esteem in which he held his family."
She said the gardaí were there to support Nicola, Tony's parents and, in the future, his children.
Afterwards, Garda Chaplain Fr Joe Kennedy said the mood at the service had been "very quiet, reflective, sad" and that members of An Garda Síochána were all "devastated". Adrian Donohoe had also been recalled.
Tony was remembered as "big, kind, gentle, quiet in many ways, just very conscientious, a man who did his job quietly, effectively and without any fuss".
"It's like a family bereavement really," said Fr Kennedy.
He had told Nicola that they will celebrate his life, "the great lad that he was, the family man and the great colleague that he was".
The general mood in the force was one of great hurt that one of them should have lost his life in that way.
"They all feel very vulnerable, naturally - and they are," he said.
"They find themselves in situations that are quite dangerous and it happens all around the country in different situations. This is a terrible tragedy," he said.
Fr Kennedy said the whole country should take time out to mourn him, saying there were people like him in every county, working away quietly, keeping the peace.
"The Garda Síochána are known as the Guardians of the Peace and he was just on a peaceful mission last Sunday, trying to bring peace to Siobhan in that terrible situation. Little did he know that was going to happen," he said.