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Officer honoured almost 40 years after risking his life

A RETIRED garda who risked his life to arrest a notorious Provisional IRA leader nearly 40 years ago has finally been honoured for his bravery.

Tyrone republican Kevin Mallon was one of a group of IRA prisoners who escaped from the top-security jail in Portlaoise in the autumn of 1975.

A couple of weeks later, Mallon and other republican activists were spotted by off-duty gardai at a dance in the Montague Hotel, just outside the Co Laois town.

Among the gardai was Aiden Roche, who went on to become a superintendent before he retired.

He was awarded a Scott gold medal, the highest honour, for showing "exceptional courage and bravery".

But for legal reasons he was unable to receive his citation until yesterday, when he was one of seven gardai honoured at a special ceremony at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

During a melee in the ballroom on October 2, 1975, some of the activists pointed guns at Mr Roche and his three colleagues.

A female republican attempted to fire a gun at them but it failed to go off.

During the arrest of Mallon, Supt Roche held on to his prisoner despite, as the citation said, "having a firearm pointed directly at him and a very real threat to fire on him existing".

He was also physically attacked, with one local republican from an area known as The Heath trying to pull out lumps of his hair.

Supt Roche and his colleagues faced a hostile crowd intent on preventing them from taking Mallon into custody but they managed to keep a hold of him.

The retired officer said yesterday that 37 years later he still had flashbacks about the incident.

Among the serving gardai honoured yesterday were Brian Dromey, of Coolock station, Dublin, and Killian Barry, now based in Youghal, Co Cork.

The pair responded to a call that a silver Audi car was being driven suspiciously outside a house in Coolock and recognised the driver.

The Audi was driven into the patrol car and the two gardai tackled the occupants.

During the struggle they realised one of the two men had a gun and smashed a window and pulled him out of the car.

The second occupant ran off but was chased and captured. A gun and five bullets were recovered and the men were later jailed.

A silver medal was awarded to Det Garda Eoin Colbert, of the Bridewell station, who arrested an armed suspect after staff were held up at a chemist's shop in Manor Street.

The gunman threatened to shoot the garda, and during a struggle the officer was struck several times in the face with the handgun.

Det Garda Karl Moriarty, of the National Fraud Bureau, was off duty and in a bookies in Clonee, Co Meath, when a man armed with a rifle threatened the staff.

Garda Moriarty identified himself and the gunman pointed the rifle at him but during a struggle he was disarmed.

Bronze medals were awarded to Wexford gardai Michael Murphy and Neil Murphy for rescuing three people from a house fire in the town in September 2010.

Irish Independent