Thursday 12 December 2019

Paul Williams: Funeral shows bond between gardai and their communities – whatever TD says

IT WAS a solemn, sad day for every member of An Garda Siochana and all decent Irish people, as a true hero was laid to rest.

The driving rain that poured from a leaden sky as they brought Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe's remains to the church provided a metaphor for the feelings of many of us and the thousands who turned up to pay a final, tearful farewell.

What followed was a poignant and moving ceremony to remember and pay tribute to a garda who represented true heroism and, yes, patriotism.

It was a heartbreaking sight to see his brave wife Caroline, and their two innocent little children, surrounded by a sea of blue as they walked behind the coffin carrying the man who was the epicentre of their lives.

Det Gda Donohoe gave his life so that other wives and children could be safe.

He gave his life in the line of duty, a dedicated detective protecting his own community.

The funeral and burial of Det Gda Donohoe, like that of his last colleague to be gunned down, Jerry McCabe, was testimony to the deep, genuine link that exists between our police and the people they serve.

It is a relationship that is only given public expression when a mind- numbing outrage like this takes place.

The images from the funeral were made all the more upsetting by the outrageous comments from Luke 'Ming' Flanagan on Vincent Browne's show on Tuesday night.

The blustering TD displayed all that is worst about our political class.

In a discussion about the arrest of his fellow Independent, Clare Daly, on suspicion of drunk driving, Flanagan libelled our proud police force, accusing An Garda Siochana of being corrupt.

His unqualified, outrageous and vindictive attack on an organisation which has held the thin blue line when our democracy has been most at risk filled me with contempt for representatives of his ilk.

The problem with the likes of Mr Flanagan is that he has been allowed to say what he likes and when he likes.

And ultimately, officers like Det Gda Donohoe have put their lives on the line to protect this right to free speech and assembly.

I'm sure, however, that the electorate of Roscommon and hinterland will have looked askance at his utterances in the same manner that I did.

The vast majority of gardai who stood for hours yesterday in the rain to say goodbye to their comrade and friend will have been deeply hurt by Mr Flanagan's false allegations.

Apparen-tly, he was exercised by the fact that news of Ms Daly's arrest had "leaked" out and, without a shred of evidence, he blamed gardai.

On the day of the state funeral, Mr Flanagan made a half-hearted attempt to apologise when he said he was sorry for his timing which he described as "atrocious".

He conceded: "The gardai are hurting. They are coming around to take care of each other today and the last thing they needed was me last night talking about corruption."

And then he qualified his apology by saying that he would be sticking to the "substantive issues".

Officers the length and the breadth of this island police this nation to protect and allow the likes of Mr Flanagan to make such utterances without fear of reprisal.

Thank God for our democracy and thank God for a police force sworn to protect it without fear or favour.

Irish Independent

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