THE spirit of the late Jerry McCabe cannot have been too far from Leinster House in recent days. It does not require a wild leap of imagination to conjure up his reaction to very belated Sinn Fein expressions of sorrow and pledges by the Government that the killers of Garda Adrian Donohoe will serve at least 40 years in prison.
For much of yesterday the Dail and Seanad chambers were silent and the parliamentary corridors quiet as most of the politicians and many staff were paying their last respects to a fallen garda. Above Leinster House the national flag flew at half-mast.
Martin Ferris, Sinn Fein TD for Kerry North and Limerick West, which was home territory for Jerry McCabe, sat behind his party leader Gerry Adams on Tuesday night as politicians of every party and none stood to condemn the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.
Mr Adams, the TD for the constituency of Louth, in which Adrian Donohoe was murdered last Friday, did something neither he nor his party could manage to do for almost 17 years. He said he and Sinn Fein were sorry for what happened outside the post office in Adare in the early morning of June 7, 1996, when the IRA shot two gardai during an attempt to steal dole and pension money so that the people of Ireland might be free.
Gerry Adams, who happily was never in the IRA himself, apologised to the family of the late Jerry McCabe. He also apologised to Jerry McCabe's comrade, Det Garda Ben O'Sullivan, badly hurt that day, and indeed to all the families of members of An Garda Siochana and the Army who were killed or injured during the Troubles.
Mr Adams was speaking in what he would now agree is Dail Eireann. He was speaking about people who wore the Irish uniform.
For the longest time, Mr Adams and his colleagues did not deign to recognise these institutions.
Perhaps it was another example of those 'slow learners' at the 1998 Good Friday peace talks making another stride at catching up with the main group.
But before we record another historical milestone, let us return to Martin Ferris.
This is the same Martin Ferris who strongly defended and supported the five people ultimately convicted and jailed in relation to those fateful incidents of June 7, 1996 in Adare.
It was Deputy Ferris who most insisted that those involved were IRA members on sanctioned 'active service'.
He also argued that they qualified for prisoner release under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
When the last of Garda McCabe's convicted killers was released in 2009, Martin Ferris was there to welcome them personally.
On Tuesday he sat silently behind Mr Adams, who apologised to the McCabe family and the others who bravely served this State.
But it was not just Sinn Fein's words this week which might have disturbed the spirit of Garda Jerry McCabe. Perhaps he would allow himself an ironic smile also at all the talk about how the killers of Det Garda Donohoe will do 40 years in prison.
Reports of the Jerry McCabe trial in February 1999 do not make for encouraging reading. Testimony of ferocious witness intimidation looms large.
The Special Criminal Court accepted pleas to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
By August 2009, the last of those convicted in relation to that incident at Adare were released from prison.
In June 1996, 25,000 marched in the streets of Limerick in solidarity with Jerry McCabe.
The tens of thousands who thronged Dundalk in recent days in solidarity with Adrian Donohoe will follow developments over the coming months with considerable interest.