Monday 18 December 2017

Tragedy reminds us gardaí risk their lives

Gardai close off the road in Omeath, Co Louth after the shooting
Gardai close off the road in Omeath, Co Louth after the shooting
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Omeath is a small, picturesque village in County Louth nestled at the foot of the Cooley Mountains with stunning views across Carlingford Lough to the Mountains of Mourne.

Omeath, where I spent many summers and a place that is home to friends and family, is a small village with a big heart.

At the last General Election, Omeath was home to just 503 people. However, its numbers swell during the summer when families come from north and south to spend some time at the sea and in the mountains.

Omeath's hospitality, like its landscapes, is outstanding - it's the kind of place where youngsters who work in the local petrol station fill your tank for you and shun any offers of a tip for their courtesy.

And it is to Omeath and nearby Carlingford where scores of young couples from Louth and across the border in Newry have returned to in recent years to raise their families.

The Cooley Peninsula, which experienced so many traumas during the Troubles, was already reeling from the still unsolved murder of Dundalk based Detective Garda Adrian Donohue at Lordship Credit Union two years ago when another young garda was shot in the line of duty last night.

Tony Golden, a married father of three, was shot dead after gardaí from Omeath station responded to a report from a woman about a domestic dispute in Mullach Alainn.

Mullach Alainn is one of the newer housing estates that have mushroomed in the area in recent years to accommodate locals and tourists.

Accompanying the distressed woman into the home, Garda Golden was shot dead by a terror suspect, who then turned the gun on the woman - and ultimately himself.

Garda Golden, a uniformed member of the force, was unarmed when he sought to protect the woman and his colleagues from Adrian Crevan Mackin.

Mackin hit the headlines last January when he appeared before the non-jury Special Criminal Court on charges of IRA membership.

The charges, to which he made no reply, followed joint Garda and PSNI inquiries into activities of dissident republicans in Dundalk and Newry and questions will no doubt be asked in time how a suspected dissident had access to firearms whilst on bail facing serious charges.

Last night's tragedy reminds us of the selfless sacrifice and extraordinary courage of members of An Garda Síochána, whose deaths in the line of duty are, thankfully, rare.

As they go about their daily duties, serving the public, they put their lives, quite literally, on the line.

The murder of Garda Golden also throws into sharp relief the unique nature of policing in Ireland.

We have, to the envy of the world, a police force that is almost entirely unarmed, apart from elite units such as the Emergency Response Unit.

The relatively low rate of deaths in the line of duty, compared to other countries whose police forces are armed, is - in its own way - a mark of the huge respect that the vast majority of the public have for our gardaí and the work that they do.

Institutional failures have undermined public trust in policing in recent years, but our respect for frontline members has not diminished.

And despite the many difficulties they have experienced as a result of major cuts to funding and personnel, gardaí have not compromised in their duty to defend the security and stability of the society in which we live.

The murder of Garda Golden is a travesty for his family, colleagues, his community - and the country.

Irish Independent

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