AN inquest has heard how a plainclothes garda was found dead in the driver seat of an unmarked car with a pistol in his lap.
The inquest into the tragic death of Garda Stephen O'Sullivan from Cashel Garda Station gave details of how his body was discovered.
Coroner Paul Morris said that the garda died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on August 18 last year.
Garda O'Sullivan (28), from Ruan, just outside Ennis in Co Clare, was the fourth garda to die using an officially issued weapon in just over two years.
Billy Lonergan and his wife Mary gave evidence about how they found Garda O'Sullivan's body while out walking in the Swiss Cottage area of Cahir.
Mr Lonergan told the inquest that he and his wife noticed a parked car with sparks coming out of the exhaust and saw something slumped over in the driver's seat.
Mrs Lonergan opened the door of the car and to the couple's horror they found a man in the driver's seat moving from side to side with blood on his neck. There was a gun on the man's lap.
Mrs Lonergan rang the gardai and two garda cars arrived at the scene shortly afterwards.
Mr Lonergan heard one of the guards say: "He is one of ours."
The coroner was told that Garda O'Sullivan was on plainclothes duty and authorised to use a firearm.
His colleague Sergeant Janet O'Neill said she was on duty that day with Garda O'Sullivan and was not aware that anything had been troubling him.
The coroner was also told that since the incident and another similar one on Carrick-on-Shannon new guidelines had been introduced all over the country regarding access to firearms.
Garda O'Sullivan was described by Superintendent John Courtney as a loyal member of the force who was held in great respect and affection by his colleagues.
The coroner asked if there were procedures in place that would identify and deal with issues of stress or depression.
Supt Courtney said if a garda shows signs of stress they would be withdrawn from detective duty and would be assessed regarding their ability to carry a firearm.