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Hometown tribute to Jerry McCabe a time to reflect on the work of Gardaí

It was a day of mixed emotions. A day that Detective Garda Jerry McCabe's family had waited 20 years for and one they so richly deserved.

It was the day that the slain Garda's home town of Ballylongford united to pay tribute to their lost son who was gunned down by members of the Provisional IRA on June 7, 1996 during the attempted robbery of a post office van in Adare

As the nation's eyes focused on the normally quiet north Kerry village on Sunday, the emotion was palpable, the loss still overwhelming two decades later.

This was the first time that the Kerry Garda was honoured in his home county and the significance and enormity of that meant so much to so many.

Addressing the hundreds who gathered for the special event, Garda McCabe's widow Anne described it as a huge honour. She spoke lovingly and emotionally about the little rural village that meant so much to her late husband, to her, and to their five children, telling the crowd that she will always have cherished memories of visiting Garda McCabes's late parents when they lived and worked there.

Garda McCabes's partner on that fateful day, retired Garda Ben O'Sullivan - who miraculously survived 11 bullet wounds during the robbery - was equally emotional on the day.

He said Gda McCabe would have been privileged to be honoured by his peers and neighbours, so much was his love for the north Kerry village. He likened their many trips to Ballylongford to 'calling in at home'.

However, it was Mrs McCabe's heart-breaking description of the impact of her husband's death on his father John McCabe that highlighted the enormous suffering caused by his needless and senseless killing.

'Granda McCabe' - as she lovingly called him - died of a broken heart, she said, and never recovered from the tragedy of losing his son in the line of duty.

He never got over his son's killing and now she too, along with her five children, will have to live with that overwhelming loss until the day die.

However, seeing the man she loved honoured in the place he loved will hopefully come as some consolation and Sunday's ceremony will quite rightly be a very proud day for the McCabes.

While Garda McCabe has already been honoured with a plaque at the garda station in Adare, it was wonderful that a man who was so proud of where he came from received the same recognition from those who loved him most.

It finds pride of place on the wall of the home where he grew up - a fitting tribute to a man who devoted his life to protecting others.

It was a day that will provide some closure to the MCCabe family but it was a day too to remember all victims of crime and to pay tribute to the work done by gardaí to help comfort those bereaved by crime.