A sea of blue for slain Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe
Colleagues bid emotional farewell to officer gunned down by raiders
It was an extraordinary sight. As a hard rain hammered down, a river of blue flowed along a Dundalk street.
A grieving, bereaved band of brothers, marching in careful unison behind the hearse with the coffin of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.
Shoulder-to-shoulder they stood, as the casket was hoisted on a phalanx of broad shoulders and carried into St Joseph's Redemptorist Church. It was draped in the Tricolour, and atop the flag sat his Garda cap and gloves.
Walking close beside his fallen partner for the last time was Det Gda Joe Ryan, who had witnessed the brutal shooting last Friday night outside the Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgan.
And behind the coffin walked Adrian's partner in life, his wife and fellow Garda Caroline, clutching the hands of their two children, Amy and Niall.
The blue river snaked into the church, removing their caps as they entered. Each wore a black armband, and strong men wiped away tears. This was a day of immense sorrow, but the message sent out by the presence of 2,500 uniformed members, plus another 1,000 in plain clothes, could not have been more direct.
This was a show of strength, silent but eloquent.
Irish President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore were there, and almost the Republic’s entire Cabinet.
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford attended.
The State funeral was the saddest of family farewells, too. And in the centre of the storm were two small children.
It's the small things that can stop your heart. Like the procession of gifts to the altar carried by Adrian's brothers and explained by Caroline's twin brother, Garda Derek Deloughrey.
Clutching the hands of their uncles, Amy (7) and Niall (6) had gifts revealing what a happy, loving family they were.
Adrian's solemn little son handed over his favourite Manchester United shirt and a football. “Niall presents the football he always played with his daddy,” said Derek. And his sister had brought two precious possessions to be placed close to the coffin. One was the TV remote control “that she always hid from her daddy to keep control of the TV”, explained Derek.
Amy's other gift was Adrian's mobile phone, because she rang him every evening to say goodnight when he was working. Fr Michael Cusack paid a moving tribute to Adrian and fellow officers: “It is the only profession in this country where we ask people to dance a dance with Satan.”
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan made a speech, vowing: “We, Adrian's colleagues, are committed to ensuring that we bring the perpetrators of this callous crime to justice.”
Then the blue river flowed back out of the church, forming up a final guard of honour as Det Gda Adrian Donohoe was taken to his final resting place in the cemetery of Lordship.
The route was lined with bowed heads and shuttered shops. There were white-flowered wreaths against the coffin. Letters which spelled father, brother, son.
He was all that, and much more. Which is why the river of blue was so wide.
Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe (below) was shot dead as he confronted a gang of men on rural roads near his home on the Cooley peninsula near the border on Friday night. He was escorting staff with cash takings for the night. Mr Donohoe is the first police officer shot dead in the Republic for 17 years since Garda Jerry McCabe was gunned down by an IRA gang in a post office raid.