Tuesday 20 March 2018

Highest-ranking garda to be killed on duty 'should be included on roll of honour'

Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

THE family of the highest-ranking garda killed while on duty has dismissed plans for a new memorial that will commemorate him and others killed "accidentally", but will keep them off the garda roll of honour.

Chief Superintendent Sean Gantly, head of the Special Branch, was killed in January of 1948 during a search for a fugitive. But as he was shot by one of his own men, his name is not included on the roll of honour at the Memorial Cenotaph in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

In the line of duty

A working party in the gardai is looking into the possibility of setting up a Memorial Day for every member who died in the line of duty. There will be a meeting on the issue later this week.

"It comes up far, far short of what we want," Mr Gantly's son, Fergus, said. "There is this issue of 'heroism' and the roll of honour, and somehow an accidental death rules out a place, even though the criteria have never been explained to us.

"My father died while looking for an IRA man who had gone on the run from Mountjoy. He was down there actively searching when it happened, he could have delegated it because of his position. So to say that his name shouldn't be on the cenotaph is nonsense.

"It's this petty suggestion that an accidental death while on duty somehow makes you a second-class citizen. It's petty.

"That guard (Det Sgt John Eiffe) who was killed in Abbeyleix in Laois a few years back by friendly fire (in 2001 while foiling a bank robbery) isn't on there either. Is his death somehow less important than that of a garda killed by a gangster?"

"He was being heroic, just doing his job, he knew he was going to be in the line of fire and he got killed like my father. They should get the same recognition and there're others in a similar position."

Mr Gantly's family has lobbied successive Garda Commissioners on the issue and former Commissioner Pat Byrne unveiled a plaque in his honour in Harcourt Terrace in 1998.

However, the GRA said it was unlikely that a place on the Roll of Honour would be given to members such as Chief Supt Gantly, as his death did not meet the criteria.

"It is well-defined as to what brings about the sort of heroism displayed by members who are on the roll of honour," a spokesman said.

"We're talking about the likes of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and the circumstances surrounding his death. That is not to say there shouldn't be a memorial of some sort for those who die in the line of duty and we have been looking at that for a while, but as it stands, members killed accidentally such as in traffic accidents are not on the roll."

A garda who is on the Roll of Honour is to be remembered at a ceremony where several of his retired colleagues who survived the 1976 incident which killed him will be honoured.

Garda Michael Clerkin (then 24) was killed and four other officers badly injured in a blast which went off with no warning as they launched a raid on an isolated cottage reportedly occupied by the IRA in Garryhinch near the Laois/Offaly border.

Garda Tom Peters was blinded in the blast. The Garda Siochana Retired Members' Association (GSRMA) have commissioned special Liddy Medals to honour him, Det Gda Ben Thornton, Sgt Jim Cannon and Gda Gerard Bohan.

A glass sculpture has also been commissioned and will be presented to Garda Clerkin's family at the GSRMA annual conference in Dublin tomorrow.

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