A nation mourns Garda Tony Golden
The awesome sea of blue that swept through the village of Blackrock in County Louth yesterday carried within it the tide of grief of a family and a nation mourning the callous murder of Garda Tony Golden.
More than 4,500 gardai filed through the village to pay tribute to their slain colleague, the 88th member of An Garda Síochána to die in the line of duty since the formation of our "guardians of the peace".
Garda Golden, known in the village of Omeath where he served as "our garda ", is the second member to be murdered in a gun attack in less than three years.
It has further traumatised those policing north Louth who are still reeling from the unsolved murder of Detective Adrian Donohoe less than three years ago in nearby Lordship.
Last Sunday, Adrian Crevan Mackin (25), who was facing charges of IRA membership before the Special Criminal Court, shot his partner Siobhan Phillips and Garda Golden before killing himself at their home in Omeath.
In an emotionally charged address, Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan told mourners that Garda Golden was a hero in death, a proud and loving family man who had died protecting a frightened woman and her father.
The pain evoked by Garda Golden's death, the Commissioner said, had touched a chord with every member of An Garda Síochána. Garda Golden's heroism and senseless murder has also struck a chord with every citizen in Ireland because our gardai are at the heart of our communities, one of our own.
We are policed by consent, not by force and - periodic policing controversies aside - An Garda Síochána is held in an extraordinarily high regard as true servants of the people.
Garda Golden's murder reminds us of the dangers our gardaí face and have exposed weaknesses in our criminal justice system and the impact of cuts to the justice sector.
And as chief celebrant Fr Pádraig Keenan, parish priest of Haggardstown, observed, his death once again reflects how north Louth and the Cooley Peninsula have been affected by the tragic history of the troubles on the island of Ireland.
The denuding of resources for gardaí protecting border areas such as north Louth requires serious reconsideration in the wake of Garda Golden's death.
In her eulogy, Commissioner O'Sullivan said that it was now the duty of the force to continue his legacy in serving and protecting our citizens. Similar sentiments were expressed in the wake of the murder of Detective Adrian Donohoe.
However, if we really want to honour Garda Golden's memory and continue the legacy of he and his fallen colleagues, our legislators must commit to and adequately resource meaningful - not knee-jerk - reforms.
We must tackle the delays in our investigation, prosecution and court infrastructures that leads to the release, on bail, of dangerous suspects for years at a time.
We must adequately resource the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which receives a pittance compared to other State agencies and we must invest in technologies to assist gardaí in their day-to-day work.
We must overhaul the manner in which our intelligence and other agencies communicate with each other and stop turning a blind eye to the reality of dissident crime.
There must be a full, independent investigation into the entire circumstances that led to this murder.
Anything less would be an insult to the legacy of Garda Tony Golden and all who have died in the line of duty.