The small close-knit community of Castlerea has been left in a state of shock after a police detective was shot dead.
A murder investigation has been launched after Detective Garda Colm Horkan, who had served with the Garda for 24 years, was killed in an incident in Castlerea, 125 kilometres north-west of Dublin, just before midnight.
Mr Horkan is the 89th member of the force to be killed in the line of duty.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris described Mr Horkan’s death as “an attack upon society”.
People gathered near the police cordon at the edge of town from early morning to express their sadness and comfort one another.
The parish priest in Castlerea, Fr John McManus, said there was deep shock and anguish in the town at Mr Horkan’s death.
Fr McManus told the PA news agency he was called to administer the last rites, and that other garda members joined him in prayer at the scene of the shooting.
He said: “I was called by the guards last night and it was only when I got up there that I realised the seriousness of it, and paramedics were trying to save his life.
“Sadly that was not to be, so I was invited to give the last rites and say some prayers.
“I thought it was very poignant to say some prayers that people would know, and all of Colm’s garda colleagues joined in.
“It was a horrendous incident and it had a huge effect on the community.
“Castlerea would be a close-knit town, so understandably there is deep shock and anguish among people.
“He was a man who served the community in Castlerea with distinction, and went above and beyond the call of duty for others.
“He was popular among colleagues and everyone had a good word to say about him.
“He loved sport and GAA and was the type of person who would get on with anyone and would have settled anywhere.
“The great tragedy is that he had only recently become a detective.
“You can feel the sadness and eeriness in the town today. There is a great sense of sadness, loss, shock and tragedy.
“Colm had no idea when he was going out on duty last night what lay in store – it reinforces the preciousness of life and the fragile hold we have on it.”
Publican Ollie Hester said he and others in Castlerea are in a “deep state of shock and sadness”.
Mr Hester, who owns the Golden Eagle Bar in Castlerea, said customers have contacted him to express their shock and anguish.
“He was such a lovely man and so well respected in the community here.
“He was an absolute gentleman. No-one in the town can get over what has happened to him.
“He was stationed in Castlerea and was only made a detective recently, so he had the world at his feet.
“Just a few weeks ago he had gone to help my elderly mother, and he called up to her house because she was having trouble with her house alarm.
“I told her the news this morning and she was absolutely heartbroken and devastated.
“She is just distraught as we were only speaking about how nice he was the other day.”