A sad community prepares its final farewell to hero Garda Golden
It's a small, tranquil estate, a compact maze of winding roads lined with neat, red-bricked houses - the sort of roads you navigate carefully, certain of meeting groups of children messing about on bikes or kicking a football around the patchwork of grass squares.
But there was a different sort of quiet in the estate yesterday. Cars, garda vans and squad cars came and went, some of the occupants in full uniform, some not. But all were joining the line snaking down the short path to the door of the home of Garda Tony Golden, who was murdered in the line of duty last Sunday evening.
There was little noise on the road outside the sorrow-filled house, save for some small children - including the little girls of the Golden household - playing with each other, too young to comprehend the enormity of the tragedy which has befallen their close-knit, loving family.
Among those going to offer condolences to the heartbroken relatives of Gda Golden - his wife Nicola and their three young children, Lucy, Alex and Andrew, his parents Breege and David, his sister Mary and brothers David, Kenneth, Patrick and Sean - was Jim D'Arcy, Fine Gael senator and neighbour of the Golden family.
"He never, ever raised his voice in the line of duty. He was a big, gentle giant who did his very best to help everybody," said Jim. "He loved playing with his children on the grass beside the house. They were his pride and joy and his whole life and they were all part of our community."
Everywhere in Blackrock, Co Louth, yesterday, that community spirit was quietly at work, making preparations for the sad blue wave which will engulf their seaside village. Thousands of members of An Garda Síochána are expected at the State funeral of their 36-year-old colleague, who was shot dead while responding to a domestic abuse case at a house near Omeath on Sunday evening. Adrian Crevan Mackin (24) also shot and critically wounded his ex-partner Siobhán Phillips, before turning the gun on himself. Tricolours were at half-mast along the seafront, outside the tiny garda station and at the local school. Signs directing mourners to the funeral were being affixed to lampposts. The community centre, across the road from the estate, was offering refreshments to mourners attending the wake. As more cars arrived, women bustled into the centre, bearing trays of homemade sandwiches and cakes.
This area has been through this horror before - it's not even three years since Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was murdered less than 20km along the road, in Lordship, during an armed robbery on a credit union.
Dermot O'Brien, president of the Garda Representative Association, was at the community centre, en route to visit another grieving garda widow. "There's a lot of anger in the Force, with another of our number murdered in cold blood," he said. "It's a surreal and numbing feeling."
Also paying his respects was former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, who is a longtime friend of Tony and Nicola Golden and of Nicola's parents, Tony and Iris O'Sullivan, who also live close by. "Like Adrian Donohoe, Tony was a real community guard, he'd do anything for you, and on Sunday he was just trying to help a woman in distress. His death has cast a real pall over the area," said Dermot.
And at noon today, once again the streets of this pretty part of Ireland's east coast will be filled with sorrowing men and women of An Garda Síochána to salute one of their own, whose death has left another sad gap in the thin blue line.