THE dreadful murder of Garda Adrian Donohoe looms like a black cloud over everything. It hasn't just darkened the mood in his native county of Cavan, and in Louth where he lived and worked.
It has cast a grim pall over the entire land. There are no arguments to be made, no defence possible to mitigate the evilness of the deed.
The shadow of the gunman was visible yesterday as Justice Minister Alan Shatter (pictured inset) went about his day's business.
At the Mansion House, he signed the newly opened book of condolences, and then said it had been a "very difficult and appalling weekend" for the gardai and asked those present to stand for a minute's silence. Everyone rose immediately and complete silence descended.
A little earlier, the minister was clear about just where he and the Government stood – and that is shoulder-to-shoulder with the grieving gardai.
The shooting last Friday was "brutal, callous and unforgivable", he declared.
"It's not just an attack on an individual garda but an attack on all members of the force, essentially an attack on the State. Everything that's necessary to bring these people to justice will be done," he vowed.
They were fighting words. But well they might be, as a show of strength from a united State is required.
Though clearly angry, Mr Shatter still had to tread carefully, as there is still much that is unknown about this murky business, starting with the identity of the killer gang.
"I don't want to prejudge whether this is an act by a group of criminal terrorists flying the Tricolour for convenience or whether this is a group of organised – or perhaps disorganised – criminals hell-bent on financial gain with no respect for human life," he said.
But he acknowledged that this was looking increasingly like a premeditated act. "They gave Gda Donohoe no chance. He simply was shot in circumstances where there was no hope of survival," he said.
Later, he travelled to the Dundalk garda station where Gda Donohoe had worked. There was another book of condolences to be signed.
And he left a floral tribute, with a handwritten message. It read: "Sincere condolences on the loss of a courageous and young life cut tragically short. Alan Shatter."
Simple words. But then this is a simple war. Decency against evil.
The storm clouds are gathering.