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Family feel the strain as horror drags on

THE strain of the events of the previous few hours was clear to see at the home of the family of slain Garda Gary McLoughlin.

Answering the door, his clearly upset father Noel said: "We've just had enough."

Asked if he knew that McDermott had been recaptured in Derry, he said: "I've just heard it on the radio."

He said he didn't want to talk any further.

In the village of Fenagh, Co Leitrim, two miles away, local people were getting ready to celebrate the St Patrick's Day parade, but McDermott's escape has cast a new cloud over the area.

Friends and colleagues of Garda McLoughlin have now demanded an apology from Justice Minister Alan Shatter after killer Martin McDermott (26) escaped from an open prison.

One local man who grew up with Gda McLoughlin said: "We are all devastated and the parade is the furthest thing away from our minds right now. People are in a state of shock; it's like Gary has been killed all over again because that's how it felt last night when I'd heard McDermott was in an open prison.

"It's not that long ago that killing a garda was a capital offence. Now it warrants a couple of years in Butlins."

Gobsmacked

At the Fenagh Abbey cemetery where Gda McLoughlin is buried, a local woman who knows the family said she was "gobsmacked" when she heard his killer had escaped.

"That killer was moved to Loughan House under Alan Shatter's watch and he needs to issue a public apology to the McLoughlin family for this. It is disgraceful," she said.

There was the same reaction outside St Mary's chapel where Gda McLoughlin's funeral Mass was held in December 2009. "That family (the McLoughlins) have kept a dignified silence throughout this nightmare. It is incredible that McDermott was in there (Loughan House)," said one neighbour.

In Donegal, where Gda McLoughlin was a popular local figure, particularly in Buncrana where he served, there was a sense of relief McDermott had been recaptured.

But there was still simmering anger, with one senior garda telling the Irish Independent: "We did our job and got McDermott. Those running the Irish Prison Service should have done theirs. They should have known a habitual criminal like this was just not suitable to an open prison system."

Irish Independent