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Murder on Main Street has echoes of tragic killings 40 years ago

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Poignant: A garda stands near the scene where Colm Horkan was shot and killed – Henry Byrne Road is named after a garda shot dead in 1980. Pic: Mark Condren

Poignant: A garda stands near the scene where Colm Horkan was shot and killed – Henry Byrne Road is named after a garda shot dead in 1980. Pic: Mark Condren

Poignant: A garda stands near the scene where Colm Horkan was shot and killed – Henry Byrne Road is named after a garda shot dead in 1980. Pic: Mark Condren

Castlerea was rocked to its core yesterday by the murder of Detective Garda Colm Horkan - almost four decades after the town mourned two gardaí who were also shot dead.

July 7 will mark 40 years since the deaths of Detective Garda John F Morley and Garda Henry Byrne, both stationed in Castlerea, who were killed while responding to a robbery 20km away in Ballaghadereen in 1980.

Det-Gda Horkan was shot and killed with his own gun in the heart of Castlerea, on the Main Street.

The town, with a population of around 2,000, is not a sleepy rural town - it is the second largest in Co Roscommon and recently celebrated the opening of a new e-mental health hub. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar delivered a virtual address and HSE CEO Paul Reid attended the opening in person just last week.

With dozens of shops and pubs, the town thrives off local businesses, but the main employers are American medical products factory Harmac and the medium security prison for men.

The road which leads into Harmac was named in Garda Byrne's honour - yesterday morning, dozens will have passed barriers and Garda cars with lights flashing as they turned on to Henry Byrne Road on their way into work.

Like most rural Irish towns, in the tight-knit community of Castlerea people really help and look out for one another.

At the scene of the shooting shortly after 2am, most of the town was in a deep sleep.

There were only gardaí on the streets, preventing access to the Main Street from St Patrick's Street, Henry Byrne Road and Ballindrimley Road, the three routes onto the main junction.

Some houses stirred at around 3am as lights flicked on and off but it was closer to 6am before the town awoke from its slumber to the devastating news.

As people headed out to work, news of the terrible incident had already filtered through the grapevine.The entire Main Street was sealed off, as pathologists and forensics officers set up a blue tent at the T-junction right at the heart of the town.

It was a stark sight opposite the menswear shop, dental surgery and travel agent.

It has been a difficult few months in the town, with most businesses closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now hundreds of locals will be mourning the devastating loss of the popular garda and GAA stalwart.

This vibrant rural town has been shaken to its very core for the second time in 40 years by the senseless killing of a brave garda in the line of duty.

And it is likely to not forget yesterday morning many for decades to come.

Irish Independent