Beloved officer made the 'ultimate sacrifice'
Scenes of anguish at packed funeral for tragic garda
HE made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his family and country.
And more than 2,000 mourners wept openly yesterday as the heartbroken girlfriend of tragic garda Gary McLoughlin (24) delivered the Christmas present he will never get to open at his packed funeral.
Fenagh parish priest Bernard Hogan told grieving mourners, including 450 members of the garda, that Gda McLoughlin had set out "to serve the State and protect its people", last Saturday evening, not knowing it would be his final journey.
The tiny Foxfield Church in Gda McLoughlin's native Co Leitrim filled to overflowing as hundreds more gathered outside to mourn a popular young man who made an impression on many people during his short life.
The dreadful news of the accident and his subsequent death had shattered the hearts of his parents, Noel and Una; brother Enda; sister Tracey and girlfriend Shauna Bradley, the priest said.
"A society that has little or no regard for the wellbeing and safety of others or for those who ensure that safety, must look into its heart and ask what has gone wrong, where we have failed and how we can put it right," Fr Hogan added.
Gary dedicated his short life to a value system that respected the lives of others, protected their interests and safeguarded their person, he added.
"He made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his family and country.
"Because of Gary and others like him and his young garda colleagues, we, the ordinary public can go to bed safe at night," said Fr Hogan.
This was something from which his parents and family could draw comfort.
"Keep in mind the good young Gary did in such a short space of time. He brought security and comfort to many. He represented what is best in Irish society -- compassion, care, respect, service and a sense of national duty," he added.
But there was little comfort for Gda McLoughlin's bereft family as they clung to each other for support and walked behind the tricolour-draped coffin of their beloved boy.
"We all loved him. We all loved him," his older brother whispered almost inaudibly before giving way to his grief.
Shauna clung to a grey teddy bear and sobbed uncontrollably as she brought the Christmas present he would never open to the altar.
President Mary McAleese was represented by her Aide-de-Camp Cmdt Brian Walsh, while Taoiseach Brian Cowen was represented by Comdt Brian Walsh.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern was joined by Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and Deputy Commissioners Martin Callinan and Nacie Rice. The PSNI, Garda Ombdusman, Army and Garda Representative Association were also represented.
Gda McLoughlin's colleague, Garda Bernard McLoughlin (22) who was also injured in the horrific collision, in the early hours of last Sunday morning, attended the funeral on crutches.
Former classmates from the garda training college in Templemore, Co Tipperary, converged from all over the country to salute their fallen colleague.
Outside, 200 uniformed and 50 plainclothes gardai marched in solemn procession behind the Garda Band and Gda McLoughlin's Buncrana colleagues -- who formed the bearer party as they escorted him along the country road to his final resting place.
The sombre silence was broken only by the call of the orders and the rhythmic answer of hundreds of marching boots, which filled the still winter afternoon.
At the graveside, Cmsr Murphy handed the folded tricolour to Gary's devastated parents.
Then all gardai marched back to a local hall while the band played 'Old Comrades'.
Fr Hogan also recalled the death of another young garda, Gary Sheeran (20), who was shot dead in a gun battle in Derrada woods in nearby Ballinamore, 26 years ago to the very day.