Tuesday 24 October 2017

Thoughts of life, death and his slain friend had been weighing on tragic garda

The scene of the shooting in Omeath, Co Louth
The scene of the shooting in Omeath, Co Louth
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

In the days before he was gunned down in cold blood, Tony Golden had been thinking a lot about life and death.

The slaying of Detective Adrian Donohoe had been weighing heavily on his mind and he had a long conversation with Sheila Mullanney, the wife of retired sergeant Michael Mullanney about this.

The couple still live next door to the garda station in Omeath, as they have done for the past 48 years.

Tony was part of the garda convoy escorting money from credit unions on the day that Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was fatally shot - and Adrian had taken over from him, Sheila Mullanney told the Irish Independent.

"Tony was very upset by Adrian's death and we talked about life and death and the loss he was to the community," she said.

Little had he known that just a week later, his own death would plunge his family and his community into the same agonising loss with the two gardaí bound together by a strange and dreadful fate.

Sheila could empathise with Tony during their last conversation, recalling the fear she had felt for her own husband who had manned the same Omeath station at the height of the Troubles.

In August 1979, Michael had been on duty when he heard the sound of the explosions across the waters of Carlingford Lough during the so-called Narrow Water Ambush - a guerrilla attack by the Provisional IRA on the British Army, killing 18 British soldiers and seriously injuring six others.

"It was dreadful, terrifying," recalled the retired garda.

Then a father of five young children, Michael had made his way to Warrenpoint, uniformed, unarmed and waving a white hanky as a sign to show that he had come in peace.

"I didn't realise how dangerous it was," said Michael.

Fear and shock once again rippled through the community of Omeath yesterday after another garda - unarmed and wearing the proverbial "white flag" of his uniform, bravely faced danger without flinching - but had not come home.

Locals described Tony Golden as "a gentleman", "soft-spoken", "a lovely man", who carried out his work without fuss.

He had commanded the respect of the community and if you turned up at the counter in the station, you would be sure of his full attention.

He was popular, involved with the local boxing club, and was well liked.

"Everyone knew him," said a local woman, who turned up at the garda station with her daughter and three grandchildren, carrying bags of fruit and rolls of kitchen paper.

Earlier, other women had arrived with pots of homemade soup and brown bread.

In the face of such helpless grief, everyone wanted to do what they could.

Bouquets of flowers were laid on the steps of the station along with a candle, while a Book of Condolence had been opened inside.

A closer examination showed broken egg shells still firmly glued to the front wall of the station - a sign of a puerile and recent minor attack on the station by those who lacked respect.

At 5pm, Commissioner Noreen O'Sullivan arrived looking set-faced and grim, to inspect the scene before going to the station.

Afterwards, she confirmed that she had paid a visit to the Golden family, saying "there were no words" to describe how they feel.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News