Saturday 1 October 2016

A thin blue line has been crossed

Published 18/10/2015 | 02:30

'Tony Golden was murdered in the line of duty, after he bounded up steps of stairs when gunshots rang out in a case to which his authority had been sought'
'Tony Golden was murdered in the line of duty, after he bounded up steps of stairs when gunshots rang out in a case to which his authority had been sought'

Garda Tony Golden, born on January 20, 1979, was a babe in his mother's arms when three garda officers were murdered by the Provisional IRA and the INLA in 1980.

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Detective Garda Seamus Quaid was murdered by the IRA in Co Wexford and Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne were murdered by the INLA in Co Roscommon.

They are among the now 88 members of the force who have been killed in the line of duty since the foundation of the State, a large proportion of whom were murdered by violent republicanism in whichever of its several twisted forms.

In the lifetime of Garda Golden, violent republicanism has moved - or been moved - towards the embrace of constitutional politics and the rule of law, to which the overwhelming majority of our citizens willingly offer their consent.

Since the Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 1998, the republican movement has also engaged in an unedifying glorification of its bloodsoaked past and attempted to manipulate that past towards a political end.

The former Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, recently said that the Irish and British governments had deliberately allowed the Provisional IRA to continue as an "unarmed and withering husk", rather than risk a dissident group filling the void left by its disbandment.

Mr McDowell made that statement, which was confirmed by the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, after evidence recently emerged that members of the Provisional IRA were engaged in forms of criminality, with so-called dissident republicans and, indeed, former loyalist terrorists.

The time for such a political imperative has come and gone, at least since the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe almost three years ago by a criminal gang with links to dissident republicans, and almost certainly well before then.

Like Adrian Donohoe, Tony Golden was murdered in the line of duty, after he bounded up steps of stairs when gunshots rang out in a case to which his authority had been sought. It was a case of what is inadequately referred to as "domestic abuse," a term too broad and vague to encapsulate a catalogue of violence perpetrated against mostly women by those close to them.

Garda Golden's murderer, who took his own life, may not have been "high up the pecking order" of dissident republicanism, but he was well enough got to arm himself with a 9mm Glock automatic pistol. Adrian Crevan Mackin was on bail awaiting trial for membership of the IRA.

For facing such a threat in the manner he did, Garda Golden has been described as a "hero" and we too endorse that description, inadequate as it also seems to be, as we endorse all of the other fine and fitting tributes widely paid to this noble servant of the State.

But we have heard such tributes before: when Garda Donohoe was murdered, when Garda Morley and Garda Byrne were murdered and when all of those other fine officers of the State were gunned down in the line of duty.

We heard such tributes too when Garda Quaid was shot dead by the Provisional IRA on October 13, 1980, 35 years ago to the week of the murder of Garda Golden.

His murderer, who was released under the Good Friday Agreement, subsequently told the BBC that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness had ordered him to transport explosives that day, a claim that was denied by the Sinn Fein leaders.

The political imperative to which Mr McDowell referred may have drawn a thin blue line under our past, but as we have repeatedly warned, and as we now see, the past can seep out in different ways and into the void filled by those psychopaths and fools to be confronted only by relatively isolated garda officers.

It is not good enough. The time for political expediency has come and gone, the time for glowing tributes after the event is at an end. Now is the time for all political leaders to advocate and support the full force of the State being brought to bear on those who would have us believe there is such a place in this country, above the rule of law, from which they feel entitled to withhold their consent. There is not and they cannot.

Sunday Independent

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