Gardai are facing up today to the nightmare scenario of losing a colleague in the line of duty.
It underlines the dangers that all members of the force must be prepared to confront when they go out on patrol.
Members of the specialist units at the forefront of the fight against organised crime and dissident terrorism are more keenly aware of the possibility of being shot.
But last night's murder brings it home to all gardai and their families that they are all at risk each time they step out on to the streets or patrol the roads.
The two Dundalk-based gardai who came under fire last night were on a routine escort, accompanying officials bringing money from the credit union at Lordship to a bank in the town.
It was late-night closing at the credit union and the gunmen were aware that the money would be taken to the bank around an hour after closing.
They were ambushed at 9.30pm and as the gardai jumped out of their patrol car they immediately came under a barrage of bullets.
One of them was shot in the head and the other miraculously escaped. It is not yet clear whether the attackers were members of a terrorist organisation or local criminals.
But it makes little difference to the families and colleagues of the dead man.
The incident proves yet again that the nation should be grateful to its police force, who have suffered losses in the past, particularly in the last four decades as they confronted the threat to the security of the State from the Provisional IRA, and more latterly the dissidents, and the organised crime gangs and drug traffickers.
The Government must now ensure that the limits on resources are lifted to allow the force to crack down on whatever group is responsible and bring the culprits to justice.