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Will they get away with murder? Two years on from slaying of Garda Adrian Donohoe

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Garda Commissioner Martin Callanan at the funeral of detective Adrian Donohoe

Garda Commissioner Martin Callanan at the funeral of detective Adrian Donohoe

Some of the many gardaí who attended the funeral of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe last January

Some of the many gardaí who attended the funeral of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe last January

Caroline Donohoe walks with behind the remains of  her husband, Det Garda Adrian Donohoe as he is carried  from St Joseph's church  after his funeral mass in Dundalk.
Picture By David Conachy 30/1/2013

Caroline Donohoe walks with behind the remains of her husband, Det Garda Adrian Donohoe as he is carried from St Joseph's church after his funeral mass in Dundalk. Picture By David Conachy 30/1/2013

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe

Adrian Donohoe with his wife Caroline

Adrian Donohoe with his wife Caroline

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Garda Commissioner Martin Callanan at the funeral of detective Adrian Donohoe

Lordship is a small south-facing village at the foot of the Cooley Mountains in County Louth.

On a clear day from a stunning vantage point on the hill above the touchline at St Patrick's GAA Club you can take in the wide sweep of Dundalk Bay and glimpse landmarks along the coast to Dublin in the distance.

On the surface not much appears to happen in places like Lordship. But two years ago this week Lordship was scarred by evil. Permanently.

At 9.30pm on January 25, 2013 a gang of criminals came over the hills from South Armagh to rob the local credit union.

It was a dirty, cold wintry night. Adrian Donohoe, a popular local detective garda with nearly 20 years' service, and his partner Detective Garda Joe Ryan were on routine cash escort duty. Staff were about to lock up and lodge the funds in a night safe.

Then suddenly out of the darkness the barbarians came. A car swept into the car park of the Credit Union and blocked the entrance. It seems the raiders expected the two detectives to be there.

There also seems little doubt that they had a brutal plan to neutralise the policemen who stood in the way of their target - the hard earned savings of ordinary people.

One of the gang emerged from hiding wielding a long-barrelled shotgun. The gunman was reported to have approached Adrian Donohoe from behind and without mercy or hesitation shot him down at close range.

The Cavan man who had made Lordship his home died from his wounds, less than a mile from his own home and only a stone's throw from where his children attend school.

The killer gang then held Det Gda Ryan at gunpoint and proceeded to ransack the credit union while Adrian Donohoe lay bleeding from his fatal wounds on the road outside.

MISERABLE

They made their escape taking the keys of the Garda car - with a miserable hoard of €4,000. Their burnt out getaway car was found hours later over the border in a wooded area near a place with the ominous name of Darkley.

This week the people of Lordship will fondly remember Adrian Donohoe.

His family, his comrades and his many friends will take part in a candlelight procession from the scene of the crime to the GAA ground that now bears his name. A year ago they marked the first anniversary of Adrian's murder with a similar dignified demonstration of solidarity and affection.

In places like Lordship, the local GAA club is the heartbeat of the parish. In Lordship Adrian Donohoe was the heartbeat of Saint Patrick's.

He played for them, and in his spare time he mentored and encouraged every player young and old who pulled on the club jersey.

While they gathered last year to remember a man they can never substitute, we were told that the suspects in the case were "being monitored". The then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, gave highly-public assurances that the culprits were "looking over their shoulders" and that after an intensive investigation involving the PSNI, Dutch police, Europol and the FBI the Gardai would be one day "knocking on their doors".

Now another year has passed and no doors have been knocked on that yielded any results.

Two years after this shocking crime the crushing fact is that the killer and his accomplices may be looking over their shoulders but they are still free. For now they have got away with murder. How come?

History and geography have a lot to do with the failure of the authorities here and in Northern Ireland to make much progress in bringing the perpetrators of this savage act of terror to justice.

Last year in his statement on the progress of the investigation Martin Callinan hinted at one of the reasons why progress was slow - fear.

TERROR

North Louth, South Armagh and the borderlands of Monaghan have been the killing fields of the Provisional IRA and its affiliates for 40years. Both democracies on this island failed to stop this region from sliding into a moral abyss.

Not only were hundreds of soldiers and police officers killed, but law-abiding citizens were put under the thumb of the terror gangs.

This was a place where it was prudent to see no evil and say nothing. Otherwise you might end up like Tom Oliver - tortured and slaughtered like a dog by the IRA for reporting suspicious activity near his Cooley Mountain farm to the guards.

The Commissioner admitted that "people might be afraid". He promised to "protect anyone who is prepared to come forward and give information".

Quite rightly Commissioner Callinan outlined what is at stake in democratic society if police officers are murdered with apparent impunity because nobody wants to risk the wrath of cold-hearted killers. People, he said, "have to decide what kind of society they want to live in".

Bandit country remains the epicentre of organised crime in Ireland. Smuggling, fuel laundering and drug trafficking are the lasting legacy of the Provo war against the Irish people in these parts.

The sinister grip of the mafia gangs who have been allowed to operate the IRA's criminal franchises has compelled people to look the other way - or else face the consequences of a chilling knock on the door.

Adrian Donohoe was a good cop. He knew this menacing underworld was the scourge of his community. His killer grew up in a sick world in which the only good cop was a dead one.

Bringing this murderer to justice will be a big blow to the fiefdom of fear on the border.

But for now the bad news is that the bad guys are winning.

hnews@herald.ie


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