Sgt Morrissey gunned down after robbery in Ardee in 1985

Published 30/01/2013 | 13:00

Michael McHugh, who was later convicted of the capital murder of Garda Seregant Patrick Morrisey (inset), being taken into Garda custody from Louth County Hospital where he was treated for injuries he sustained when he and accomplice Noel Callan were...

FOLLOWING the brutal killing of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe last Friday night, dark memmories of the only other day a member of An Garda Siochana was murdered in County Louth came flooding back.

It was a day like any other, June 27th 1985. Patrick Morrissey (49) was the garda sergeant in Collon and was on his way to Ardee courthouse for a sitting of the local court.

Somehow word reached him that a robbery had taken place at the employment exchange in Ardee.

It was his duty to help, he knew that, and he flagged down a passing patrol car and suddenly stepped into the annals of Garda Siochana history.

Michael McHugh from Crossmaglen and Noel Callan from Monaghan had entered the exchange that morning, wearing balaclavas and carrying guns.

They made off with £25,000 in a car belonging to the manager of the premises.

But Ardee gardaí were quickly on their trail. But close to Rathbrist House at Tallanstown, the pair were forced to abandon their vehicle after an accident and fled on foot into the grounds of the house.

Sgt Patrick Morrissey followed them, even though he was unarmed. It was here that two shots rang out and Pat Morrissey, a father of four, was gunned down in the line of duty.

The ultimate sacrifice in the defence of the decent, honest people of this land.

Callan and McHugh were brought to the Special Criminal Court in December of the same year and were sentenced to death for the capital murder of Patrick Morrissey. It was commuted to 40 years in jail without remission. They also got 12 years for the Ardee robbery.

The days after Sgt Morrissey's death brought an outpouring of grief, tinged with anger and frustration.

He was a Cavan man by birth, from Druma lee, near Belturbet. He had served in places as varied as Waterford, Dundrum, Stepaside, Whitehall, Omeath, Bridewell, Phoenix Park and Collon.

He had also enjoyed his stint with the Garda Subaqua Unit and had been part of the Drogheda Rescue and Recovery Service. He loved music too, being a former tenor in the garda choir.

But ultimately it was his wife, Bernie, and children Martin, Brian, Mary and Aideen, then respectively aged 19, 17, 15 and 12, that mattered most of all.

Then Taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald, visited the family at Bernie's sister, Mrs Phyllis Murphy's home, at the Beamore Road.

He was clearly moved by their courage, remarking as he left ' they are an outstanding family and it is wonderful to see how they are facing up to his tragedy'.

The funeral began with the removal from the Lourdes to St Mary's Church.

It was a busy summer Saturday but all the businesses in town took the decision to close for two hours in a show of solidarity with the family.

The crowd included the likes of Tanaiste Dick Spring, Taoiseach Jack Lynch and Mayor Peter Moore.

Thousands stood weeping outside St Mary's as the coffin, bearing the tricolour, was carried shoulder high on its last journey by Sgt Patrick Clarke, Brian Duignan, Pat Robinson, John Clarke, Richard O'Leary and Andy McPhillips.

His nieces, Fiona Murphy and Ruth McAvinia carried wreaths.

Inside, Bernie Morrissey spoke of her loving husband, the man who loved the Boyneside, the Boyne Valley and its people.

' I am sure people will understand that Belturbet was his native place and we will be bringing him back there,' she told the packed congregation.

She spoke of his love of working with the Drogheda River Rescue and the 'wonderful voluntary work they do.'

' Words just cannot express the support of Chief Supt Michael Bohan and all the gardaí at this time,' she added.

'Our special thanks goes to Fr O'Reilly, our PP, and the people of Collon, but I would ask people to reflect on Pat's death and to see if some lesson can be learned from it.'

Following the Mass, the funeral cortege left for Belturbet, poignantly passing through Collon, Slane, Navan, Virginia, where Drogheda man Jimmy Nash turned out with the Brass and Reed Band, Cavan, Butlersbridge and Belturbet.

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