One year on, the grief for slain Adrian Donohoe is as raw as ever
SILENCE blanketed the packed church as Father Eamon Hoey revisited the bleakest of days a year ago when one brutal murder sent waves of profound shock rippling outwards, speeding from a picturesque and peaceful village tucked away on the Cooley peninsula, onwards to Dundalk, Dublin, across the 32 counties of the island and further out again.
"The last image of the marching blue lines of Adrian's garda colleagues stretching into the distance flashed around the country and beyond. A lasting memory I and so many people have is the grief etched on the faces of many young gardai gathered both here in the church and outside in the grounds," said the priest.
"I'm sure many of us will recall the many people's tears flowing freely, lining the streets while many shops and businesses closed voluntarily," he continued. "They were paying their silent tribute and profound respect to a guardian of the peace, one who had laid down his life."
A year has passed since Det Garda Adrian Donohoe (pictured) was shot dead in the car park of the Lordship Credit Union in Co Louth on the evening of January 24, just a few minutes' drive from the happy home he shared with his wife Caroline and two young children, Amy and Niall.
It was a crime that shook the nation to the core and six days later, when he was buried with a full state funeral, everyone paused for a short while to mourn with his heartbroken family and grief-stricken brothers and sisters in blue, who turned his final farewell into a dignified show of solidarity to his loved ones and defiance to those who had killed him.
Twelve months on, the river of sorrow may be more quiet, but it still runs very, very deep. It didn't take long for St Joseph's Redemptorist Church in Dundalk – where Adrian Donohoe's funeral took place – to fill up for his first anniversary Mass.
But there was no elaborate ceremony this time, just a non-stop stream of gardai, some in uniform, flowing into the church. Just before 7.30pm, his wife Caroline arrived with eight-year old Amy and seven-year old Niall and other family members.
A few minutes later, Justice Minister Alan Shatter greeted Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and they walked inside together.
Chief mourners were Det Garda Donohoe's mother Peggy, father Hugh, parents-in-law Bridie and Stephen, sisters Mary and Anne, brothers Colm, Martin and Alan, brothers-in-law Derek, Kieran and John, sister-in-law Angela and extended family.
There were other mourners: Assistant Commissioner Pat McGee; former Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy; Sinn Fein president and local TD Gerry Adams; and Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick, who used to play football with Adrian.
But this coming together wasn't for the big-wigs; it was for the close-knit community who are still devastated by the violent death of a man who was loved and looked up to, who trained kids in the local GAA club and who looked out for his neighbours.
There was a bitter poignancy to the gospel, too.
"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends," read Fr Hoey to the sombre congregation.
In his moving homily, the Redemptorist father paid a warm tribute to the 13,000 men and women of An Garda Siochana – including several members of Adrian's own clan.
"Adrian's wife Caroline, Adrian's two brothers, they share the sisterhood and the brotherhood of the badge and they too have dedicated their lives like so many others, to protect and serve the people," he said.
"As we share the revulsion and rejection of the evil of such atrocities, let us value all the more and appreciate the importance of An Garda Siochana maintaining a peaceful and civil society." He also spoke movingly of the legacy of the garda.
"The best memorial for Adrian will not be something made of bronze or stone, it will be something alive; it will be all of us who believe in or are prepared to work for peace.
"We will remember Adrian best if we imitate his happy character, his love for wife and children, his vital interest in the children of the community and parish in which he lived."
There was little of the open and raw grief of 12 months ago, but the air itself was infused with a heavy sense of loss.
But a few quiet sobs rose at the poignant sight of Caroline carefully shepherding Amy and Niall up the aisle with the gifts of the Eucharist, perhaps still too young to understand the enormity of their loss.
Fr Hoey tried to offer the best comfort he could. "May the memory of Adrian bring all of us, and especially his family, comfort. May his memory make you all ever proud and may you find peace in knowing that we never forget those who give their lives to serve and protect others," he told them.
Nobody in that church will forget. And especially while justice remains to be served on those who murdered him, none of us should.