Death of Garda Colm Horkan: Expressions of Sympathy

There has been a national outpouring of both shock and grief in the days since the terrible loss of Detective Garda Colm Horkan, who gave his life serving the State and protecting the community. We have come to learn of the man so beloved of his family, his community and his Garda colleagues. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I convey again my deepest condolences to Colm's father, Marty, his sister and fellow public servant, Deirdre, his brothers, Aiden, Brendan, Dermot, and Padraig, his wider family and friends, and all the women and men of An Garda Síochána who are heartbroken by his loss.

Detective Garda Horkan served with distinction for 24 years as a Garda member. He was a proud Mayo man. He was a talented stalwart of his local GAA club, Charlestown Sarsfields, since his earliest days playing there as a young boy. We have all heard his colleagues and friends describe him as a man of the highest integrity, a peacemaker, and a rock of sense and discretion who loved his job as a member of An Garda Síochána. Throughout his exemplary service, he embodied that grassroots ethos shared by the GAA and the Garda, namely, commitment to family, community and country. As the Garda Commissioner said this week, Detective Garda Horkan epitomised what all Garda members should strive to be.

The death of Detective Garda Horkan is an all too painful reminder of the personal risks that Garda members take while working to keep us safe. The women and men of An Garda Síochána, in their everyday duty, put the welfare of others ahead of themselves as they work to shield us from harm and connect our communities. While grounded in our communities, they courageously take on the burden of standing between us and danger. It is to them that we turn in times of crisis, including during the current pandemic. Each of the 89 men on the Garda Roll of Honour died in the service of the State and for the people of Ireland. That is a debt that we can never fully repay but it is one that we will always remember.

When Colm Horkan passed out of Templemore in September 1995, his classmates included Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was murdered while on duty in January 2013. Also passing out that day were Garda Eoin Fitzgerald and Garda Ambrose Fogarty, killed while on duty in separate road traffic accidents in 1998 and 1999. I know Colm's death has reignited painful memories for the tight-knit community of Castlerea of the killing of Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne just miles away in Ballaghaderreen 40 years ago. We remember them all too today as we reflect on Colm's tragic loss.

I know these statements cannot ease the pain that the Horkan family feel for their fallen son, brother, cousin and uncle, but I hope they can take some comfort in the obvious respect and admiration for Colm Horkan that we saw in Charlestown on Sunday. Detective Garda Colm Horkan lost his life doing a job that he loved as he was protecting and serving the community he loved. He represented the very best of An Garda Síochána and the best of us. We grieve for him and we will remember his brave life which ended far too soon. May he rest in peace.

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Fhianna Fáil déanaim comhbhrón le clann an Gharda Colm Horkan, a fuair bás an tseachtain seo caite nuair a bhí sé ag freastal ar an bpobal. Aithnímid sa Teach seo an tseirbhís a chuireann comhaltaí den Gharda Síochána ar fáil gach lá agus na priacail mhóra a bhíonn ann agus iad ag obair ar son an phobail agus ar son na tíre. Ní dhéanfar dearmad ar íobairt mhór an Gharda Colm Horkan agus táim ag smaoineamh ag an am seo ar a mhuintir, a chairde agus a chomhghleacaithe sa Gharda Síochána.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I express deepest sympathies and condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the late Detective Garda Colm Horkan. Detective Garda Horkan gave his life defending our community as a member of An Garda Síochána. At a time when most people were sleeping safely in their beds, Detective Garda Horkan was out doing his job as a member of An Garda Síochána. It is very important that we remind ourselves that the job of a garda can be a very dangerous one and that is apparent from the tragic and brutal killing of Detective Garda Colm Horkan.

We can gain some courage and strength, however, from the fact that there is a fantastic relationship in this country between An Garda Síochána and members of the public. That was apparent when we saw the outpouring of grief around the country in the aftermath of Colm's death. That relationship distinguishes An Garda Síochána from police forces in other countries where they are regarded as law enforcement agencies. That is not the situation with An Garda Síochána. It is not viewed in this country as a law enforcement agency. Instead, it is viewed as a community police force providing community policing. That should be the testament and strong message that comes out of the grief we have all experienced in the aftermath of the death of Colm Horkan.

I did not know Colm Horkan, but I had the privilege of being at the Phoenix Park last Sunday for the funeral service relayed from Charlestown to the assembled gathering in the Phoenix Park. I emphasise again the strong sense of family among the members of An Garda Síochána who were grieving for the loss of their colleague. We can, however, gain comfort from the fact that Detective Garda Horkan's life was one that was very well lived. Although I did not meet him, from what people who knew him say, he was a fantastic person who served his country, community and police force well.

The news of the murder of Detective Garda Colm Horkan last Wednesday evening was met with shock, anger and sadness, not just in Roscommon but everywhere in Ireland. He was a highly respected officer and highly regarded member of the community. I did not know Detective Garda Horkan, but the outpouring of grief from those who did tells its own story. He was a decent man who was taken all too soon from those who loved him in the most dreadful of ways.

Colm Horkan was a dedicated member of An Garda Síochána. He has been praised for his extraordinary work in making Ireland a safer place for everyone in the community. Before joining An Garda Síochána, Colm was a firefighter here in Dublin. His colleagues in Dublin Fire Brigade remember him as a tireless and committed member of the team. It strikes me that Colm Horkan devoted his adult life to the service of others. We have all listened to the words of people who knew him well and they paint a picture of a man who loved life and genuinely cared for people. The people of the area of Roscommon who had him as their garda looking after them felt very privileged to have a man of his calibre looking after them in such a way. Detective Garda Horkan was a person who would walk the hard road with you and someone who would stand in your corner. He was a dedicated supporter of the GAA and was devoted to his beloved Mayo team and local club. He was an avid and passionate supporter of Liverpool Football Club as well, and a person who loved music, concerts and a good laugh.

These are only glimpses of Garda Horkan, snippets of his life which was tragically cut too short. His murder is a sorrowful reminder of the stark reality that members of An Garda Síochána go out to work every day knowing they will often meet danger and harm. Those who face these risks to protect the lives of others in the community do so in a very brave way. We should be very grateful to those, like Detective Garda Horkan, who do their jobs and do them well. Through the shock, sadness and outrage at this murder, one which has rightfully consumed the emotions of the nation, we cannot lose sight of the plain and simple humanity of the loss of a fine young man.

A father has lost a cherished son and it was poignant that, on Father's Day, a father buried his son. I understand that Colm's sister was lost a couple of years ago; that family has met with great tragedy.

All of the people of the area understand that the Horkan family has been a part of the community in Charlestown for many years. I spoke to a colleague of mine from the area, Councillor Gerry Murray, who told me that the Horkan family had a pub across the road from him and ran businesses, including a taxi service, in the town for many years. Colm's father Marty is a loved member of the community and it must be acknowledged that Colm's death is a huge loss to him and to everyone in that community. The people of that area have lost a loyal friend, the Garda has lost a brave colleague and their immense pain is unimaginable.

Those who had Colm in their lives say that he would never let them down and no greater tribute can be paid to any man. On behalf of myself and Sinn Féin, I extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Garda Horkan and his family. Our thoughts are with them all today.

I join the other Members in paying tribute to Detective Garda Colm Horkan. His death reminds us that members of An Garda Síochána put themselves at considerable risk every day to keep our communities safe. It is particularly poignant to note that three other gardaí from Detective Garda Horkan's graduating class - Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, Garda Eoin Fitzgerald and Garda Ambrose Fogarty - have lost their lives in the line of duty.

In Ireland, we benefit greatly from having a police force who are focused on keeping our communities safe rather than the rigid law enforcement approach that is seen in many other countries. That approach is most clearly demonstrated by the unarmed nature of our police force. As Michael Staines, the first Garda Commissioner, stated, "The Garda Síochána will succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people."

Our gardaí face very real dangers as they undertake their work, whether dealing with highly-resourced and organised criminal gangs or facing seemingly random incidents of violence. The events that took place in Castlerea remind us all of the reality that members of An Garda Síochána face every single day.

Since his tragic death, the outpouring of grief from colleagues and the wider community in Roscommon and Mayo tells us of the type of man that Detective Garda Horkan was. The stories being told about him by friends and family have provided us with a picture of him as deeply embedded in his community, loyal to his friends and always conscious of his role in giving back to others. On behalf of the Green Party, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Detective Garda Horkan. May he rest in peace.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to express my sincerest condolences to Detective Garda Horkan's father, all his family and his very wide circle of friends. His loss to his grieving family is simply incalculable. We send our deepest sympathies on the tragic loss of one of their own to the people of Charlestown in Mayo and Detective Garda Horkan's friends in the GAA.

We especially extend our sympathies to Detective Garda Horkan's colleagues in An Garda Síochána. When one member falls in the line of duty, it is felt by the entire force. This was apparent in the solemn and dignified way in which members of the force gathered from Donegal to Drogheda and beyond to pay their respects in their thousands on Sunday.

It was not only gardaí who lined up to pay personal tributes. People from all walks of life mourn Colm because of who he was, how he conducted himself and what he represented. From the tributes that were paid to him, he seemed to exemplify and embody everything that is good about An Garda Síochána and that a member should be. He was an integral part of his community and the first to put up his hand when something needed to be done. He had a civic spirit and pride in his place. He was decent and always prepared to put other first.

As the Minister and others have said, it is particularly poignant that Colm came through the same class as the late Adrian Donohoe, a brave member of An Garda Síochána who was cold-bloodedly killed in my constituency, outside Lordship credit union in 2013. It is also right that we remember the sacrifice made by Garda Fitzgerald and Garda Fogarty in 1998 and 1999, respectively. The two men were also classmates of the late Detective Garda Colm Horkan.

Detective Garda Horkan will live on in the memory of every serving member of An Garda Síochána, and in all of our memories.

In that sense, as the anthem of his beloved Liverpool FC proclaims, he will never walk alone.

On my own behalf and that of the Social Democrats, I want to express our sympathy with the family and friends of Detective Garda Colm Horkan and with his colleagues in An Garda Síochána. The reports of his life and work tell us something about the man that has resonated with everyone. From the reports, we can see that Detective Garda Horkan was a very dedicated member of the force and was very dedicated to his work. It was not just a job. Some professions have a vocational nature to them and that was very much how he lived his profession. Our streets and our community are the workplace of An Garda Síochána and were the workplace of Detective Garda Horkan. We cannot take that aspect of An Garda Síochána for granted. It is a very dangerous job and not many of us would want our brothers, sisters, son or daughter to put themselves in that kind of place of risk. However, we have a responsibility in this House, and I have talked to members of An Garda Síochána over the years who worry about, for example, having to respond to an incident on their own. We have to pay attention to making sure that the job is done in the safest way possible. That is an aspect we need to be considering very carefully.

On behalf of Solidarity-People Before Profit and on my own behalf, I would like to express our condolences and sympathy with Detective Garda Colm Horkan's family, friends and colleagues. Reading the reports of his funeral and the very many occasions that happened around the country, I was particularly struck by the words of his brother, Brendan Horkan, at his funeral. He painted a very human, warm picture of Colm. He said he was "kind, considerate, selfless and above all, loyal to the core. He was a rock in our family. The man that was the glue that held it all together." Our sympathies go out to all those who are grieving from this tragic loss.

I echo the comments of the Minister for Justice and Equality and colleagues here. On behalf of the Regional Group of Deputies, I express our heartfelt sympathy to Marty, Deirdre, Aiden, Brendan, Dermot, Padraig and the extended Horkan family.

June in Castlerea Garda station would traditionally be ball hopping month – Connacht football hopping. Castlerea station services the crossroads of the football giants in Connacht - Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Colm Horkan, who served 21 years as a garda in west Roscommon, would be in the thick of it. This year there is no football banter, every member of the force doing their bit to support people who were cocooning and remaining socially distant in an area of rural Ireland where people are physically and socially isolated at the best of times. The gardaí were a lifeline to the outside world during lockdown for so many. For recently promoted Detective Garda Colm Horkan, this would have been so very natural to him.

The Garda Commissioner said of Colm that he "epitomised what all of us as members of An Garda Síochána should strive to be". The former Mayo footballer John Casey said of him: "He was respected by everyone who knew him." He went on to point out that: "Colm is the fellow you would bring into the trenches with you." Not a bad attribute for a centre half forward. But this year in Castlerea there was no football banter. It was replaced instead with the shocked silence of last Thursday morning that reverberated right across this country, in fact right across the globe.

Roscommon people from all over the world, from Canada to Australia, have contacted me. On behalf of the people of County Roscommon and on my own behalf, we say thank you to Colm, not for doing his job but for the manner in which he did it. That is the abiding commentary I have heard. For me, the tribute paid by a man who I hold in very high regard, retired Garda Sergeant John Hynes, says it all about Colm. His attention to detail was meticulous and the rights and needs of victims were paramount to him. Those attributes helped secure convictions and prevent further abuses of women and children across the west of Ireland. Some of those abuses took up many hours of debate here in Dáil Éireann and led to important changes in the law. We have no idea of the countless lives that would have been destroyed were it not for the perseverance and dedication of Detective Garda Colm Horkan. Ar deis Dé go raibh a anam.

I add the Rural Independent Group's voice to the outrage, disquiet and dismay at the sad and untimely passing of Detective Garda Horkan. The vox pops and reaction of people in the small town of Ballaghaderreen give a sense of loss and a feeling of "here we go again" 40 years on from the tragic and untimely deaths of Garda Henry Byrne and Detective Garda John Morley who were murdered 40 years ago. Preparations were being made to commemorate these two heroic fallen comrades. To think that this happened to a dedicated member of An Garda Síochána on a sleepy Tuesday night in a small rural town. We heard from Deputy Naughten and others who knew of Detective Garda Horkan's work in Roscommon - we will hear more from Deputy Fitzmaurice shortly - the everyday stories of how he mattered and how he dealt with his community. I heard retired Garda Sergeant John Hynes speak on RTÉ about him and the House will discuss domestic violence during the Covid crisis later. This is a timely reminder of how Detective Garda Horkan endeavoured to help so many families who were affected by that scourge. His death is a huge loss to his community, An Garda Síochána and the State.

I salute gardaí up and down the country. I acknowledge that dedicated community units have been re-established in Clonmel, Cahir and elsewhere. I ask that the Minister for Justice and Equality and his successor, whoever that may be - he may be sitting beside me - ensure that community Garda units are in place. They are the lifeblood of policing as no police force can function without the public's support. Ní neart go cur le chéile. It is so important that we have these community units, which have done Trojan work in this time of lockdown. They have regained for the Garda a huge amount of respect, which had diminished due to a lack of numbers and support. No garda should work alone. Gardaí do not know what call will come into the station or what they will confront on any street, around any corner or behind the door of any house. They need back-up and support. Too often in rural Ireland, members of the Garda are out on their own, which is not safe or wise. I salute all gardaí for the dedicated work they do to keep us safe so that we can sleep in our beds in the knowledge that they will respond. I express the sympathies of the Rural Independent Group to Detective Horkan's family, the Charlestown community and An Garda Síochána.

Last Sunday, we listened to the words of a priest in Castlerea as he spoke of how, when word came through that a garda had been shot, he had pitied whoever would have to deliver the news to the family the following morning. There is shock and numbness in the community, not alone in Castlerea and Charlestown but right around the country.

To hear people talk about Detective Garda Colm Horkan, if a person was in a pub drinking, he would bring that person home. He was a commonsensical person and was not bound by the notebook; he worked with the community by bringing people with them. To his father, Marty, to his brothers, to his sister, and we also must remember his late mother and twin sister, I offer my condolences and those of communities right around this country. I have listened to many people referring both to his involvement in the GAA in Charleston and right around the community, where he talked to the elderly and where whatever he could do, he did. Now it is the community’s turn because after a funeral comes a lull. After the time of the hustle and bustle of the few days when people have been sympathising passes, it is from then on that that family needs support. It is from now on that the Garda community, the Commissioner said this the other day, and the people of Charlestown and of the wider area need to stand by and support that family.

I offer my condolences as well to the whole Garda community. We must remember Garda Byrne and Garda Morley who also lost their lives 40 years ago. It is poignant today that we stand up and salute Detective Garda Colm Horkan but we must remember that each garda who goes out on the front line never knows what is around the corner and we have to respect them. Our prayers and our thoughts are with the Horkan family and I ask people in that area to keep supporting them.

I knew Detective Garda Colm Horkan. Like every other Garda, I was respected him and was thankful to him and at all times believed, as Deputy O’Callaghan stated earlier, that they are of the community. We have a relationship with An Garda Síochána since the foundation of the State about which we must ask ourselves. Over the past number of years, I saw in both the Seanad and the Dáil that when the Garda whistleblowers and other matters came to the fore, politicians could not wait to get out and undermine the confidence and integrity of the Garda Síochána. I hope we will have some balance in this regard from now on. We cannot criticise without remembering that these are young men and women of our communities. We need to stand up at times and to protect them because they are protecting us. One has to ask oneself what has brought us to having somebody chasing down a garda down the street. It is perhaps a symptom in respect of politicians and commentators and we need to be measured. I am really angry that a young man has died. In the future we must choose our words carefully both here and in the media because we can undermine the confidence and integrity of those brave men and women. I offer my sympathies to Detective Garda Horkan’s family, his loved ones and the brave men and women colleagues of his in An Garda Síochána.

Members have described an exceptionally fine and outstanding member of An Garda Síochána, a person who was the essence of what a policeman should be, someone who is a shining star for young recruits to emulate and who, outside his professional role, demonstrated himself to be a profoundly decent human being. Let us now be upstanding for a minute as a mark of respect.

Members rose.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.