|The widow of murdered Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, Caroline Donohoe,
leaves St Joseph's the Redemptorists Church in Dundalk after his funeral Mass last week.
The callous, almost casual, murder of a detective Garda (police officer) here more than a week ago united the country in outrage and grief. It also made it a very uncomfortable week for the reformed IRA gunmen in Sinn Fein who now sit in the Dail (Parliament).
Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was part of one of the usual two-man security details that accompany significant cash transfers here. This involves two armed detectives in a car who accompany the cash vans as they do their rounds transferring money between bank branches and savings and loans offices, post offices, credit unions and so on.
In this case, the two detectives were guarding a cash transfer to the bank from a credit union at Lordship, a village just outside Dundalk in Co. Louth. When Donohoe saw someone approaching the person carrying the cash he got out of his car to check, but as he got near he was shot in the head at close range by a raider with a shotgun. As far as we know there was no warning.
Donohoe had not even taken out his gun. It was a summary execution, immediate and instantaneous. It was this almost casual killing of a Garda that made it even more of a shock to people all over the country here.
It seemed to sum up just how much our society has changed, how violent and dangerous this country has become.
Robberies and burglaries these days are routinely accompanied by a level of savage violence, often inflicted on victims who are old or isolated in rural areas.
This shocking murder seemed to fit the pattern. The raider, from what we know, could have disarmed Donohoe. Instead, almost as casually as you would swat a fly, he blasted him with the shotgun at point blank range.
The five man gang got away and their burnt out car was found on the other side of the border, near the town of Keady in South Armagh. This is the famous bandit country, during The Troubles an area of fierce resistance against "the Brits."
These days it's home to criminal gangs, "dissident" Republicans and young men who can fit either description, depending on what they are up to. Smuggling fuel, cigarettes, drugs and other things across the border is still big business, as it has been for decades.
And ordinary criminality is rife, since the border offers a convenient getaway in either direction in spite of the increased cooperation between the Gardai in the south and the PSNI in the North.
The cross-Border gang who Gardai believe murdered Donohoe are at the criminal end of the chain and are mainly from South Armagh. They were probably the same gang who hit the Lordship Credit Union a year ago and got away with around €60,000.
Low level criminals like this often repeat themselves. This time they got only €4,000, which somehow added to the tragedy.
For that paltry sum they killed a young Garda who was an exemplary member of the force, a married man with kids who was popular with everyone in the area and deeply involved with the local community (a talented footballer, he trained kids in his local GAA club).
His funeral last week saw a massive turnout not only of his fellow Gardai but of all sections of Irish society from the president down. It was a powerful expression of the revulsion felt across the country, a national rejection of this kind of thuggery, whether cloaked in republicanism or not.
Which brings us to the discomfort of Gerry Adams and the other Sinn Fein members of the Dail last week. The murder of Donohoe brought back vivid memories of the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe who was shot by an IRA gang robbing a cash van outside a post office in Adare, Co. Limerick in 1996.
The similarities were striking. McCabe was also one of a two-man armed Garda security detail in a car with the cash van. As with Donohue, he was given no chance by the gunmen.
Obviously aware of the political damage this could do to him and Sinn Fein, Adams last week in the Dail apologized to McCabe's family. It was 17 years too late.