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Murder probe launched after Irish police detective shot dead

Detective Garda Colm Horkan was killed in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

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Detective Garda Colm Horkan died after being shot in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, on Wednesday night (Garda/PA)

Detective Garda Colm Horkan died after being shot in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, on Wednesday night (Garda/PA)

Detective Garda Colm Horkan died after being shot in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, on Wednesday night (Garda/PA)

A murder investigation has been launched after an Irish police detective was shot dead in Co Roscommon.

Detective Garda Colm Horkan, who had served with the Garda for 24 years, was killed in an incident in the town of Castlerea, 125 kilometres north-west of Dublin, just before midnight.

A man in his 40s has been been arrested and is being held at Castlerea Garda Station.

It is understood that Mr Horkan was shot with his own weapon during a scuffle with a man close to the Garda station.

It is believed the officer had intervened in an incident unfolding on the street as he was returning to the station.

As the incident involved a Garda firearm, it has been referred to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

The detective was from Charlestown, Co Mayo. He is survived by his father, sister and four brothers, the Garda Representative Association said.

Police have closed the centre of Castlerea to traffic as investigations continue in the town of fewer than 2,000 people.

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at the scene in Castlerea (Niall Carson/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at the scene in Castlerea (Niall Carson/PA)

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at the scene in Castlerea (Niall Carson/PA)

Detective Garda Horkan is the 89th member of the force to be killed in the line of duty.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris paid tribute to the officer.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of my colleague Detective Garda Colm Horkan,” he said.

“My thoughts, and the thoughts of all personnel in An Garda Síochána, are with the family, friends and colleagues of Detective Garda Colm Horkan at Castlerea Garda Station and the Detective Unit he served in.

“Colm served the communities he worked in with distinction and pride during his 24 years as a member of An Garda Siochana.

He added: “Today is a terrible reminder of the significant sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, that Gardai make to keep people save.

“I want to thank the local community in Castlerea and the country as a whole for the support they have shown to An Garda Siochana and individual Gardai, even in the short time since the incident.

“The fatal shooting of Detective Garda Colm Horkan remains under investigation.”

The commissioner urged anyone with information or witnesses to come forward.

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The scene where Detective Garda Colm Horkan died after being shot on Wednesday night (Niall Carson/PA)

The scene where Detective Garda Colm Horkan died after being shot on Wednesday night (Niall Carson/PA)

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The scene where Detective Garda Colm Horkan died after being shot on Wednesday night (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish President Michael D Higgins said: “The death of a Garda detective on duty in Castlerea has come as a shock to us all.

“As President of Ireland I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the Garda, and to all those who have been affected by this tragedy.

“An Garda Siochana play a crucial role in our communities and this loss of life is traumatic for our society as a whole.

“I have contacted the Garda Commissioner to express my deepest sympathies on this terrible loss of a member of the force.”

Irish Premier Leo Varadkar extended his deepest sympathies to the officer’s family and friends.

“Every day our gardai put themselves on the front line of crime prevention, on behalf of all of us,” he said.

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Members of the fire service carry flowers to the scene (Niall Carson/PA)

Members of the fire service carry flowers to the scene (Niall Carson/PA)

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Members of the fire service carry flowers to the scene (Niall Carson/PA)

“This requires regular acts of bravery and courage. Sometimes the outcome is tragic and a garda makes the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their duties.

“Our thoughts today are with all those grieving as a result of this tragic incident.”

Ireland’s justice minister, Charlie Flanagan, offered his condolences.

“I am deeply shocked and saddened at the shooting of a Garda member in Roscommon last night and a full murder investigation is under way,” he said.

“The brave detective garda who died last night died in the line of duty, serving and protecting the community.

“His death will cause untold heartbreak to his family, loved ones and all his colleagues in An Garda Siochana across the whole country.

“It is also a loss to wider Irish society. His heroism and the debt of gratitude which we owe to him and his family will never be forgotten.

“The women and men of An Garda Siochana serve the whole community and work to keep Ireland safe.

“In their everyday duty, they put the welfare of others ahead of themselves, as they work to shield us from harm and to connect our communities.

“It is to them that we turn in times of crisis, including during the current pandemic. All throughout this period, gardai have been selflessly working to protect our health and wellbeing, in the best tradition of the service.”

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Garda at the scene (Niall Carson/PA)

Garda at the scene (Niall Carson/PA)

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Garda at the scene (Niall Carson/PA)

President of the Garda Representative Association Jim Mulligan said: “On behalf of the GRA, I extend our deepest sympathy to the family of our colleague fatally shot in the line of duty in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, overnight.

“Our brave colleague died as result of injuries sustained when he was responding to an incident. He was based in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, in the Castlerea District.

“A native of Co Mayo, he joined An Garda Siochana in 1995, and was an experienced detective greatly respected by colleagues.

“He is survived by his father, sister and four brothers.

“Our thoughts are with his family and colleagues at this very distressing time.”

Antoinette Cunningham, general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, said it was a “sad, sad day” for the Garda.

“Devastated to hear this Garda Colleague has passed away,” she tweeted.

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Forensic officers in Castlerea (Niall Carson/PA)

Forensic officers in Castlerea (Niall Carson/PA)

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Forensic officers in Castlerea (Niall Carson/PA)

She extended her sympathies to the guard’s family, friends and colleagues.

“A sad sad day for An Garda Siochana,” she added.

The Policing Authority, the Garda’s oversight body, said: “The Policing Authority has learned with great shock and dismay of the death of a garda in Co Roscommon.

“The killing of a garda, as well as being a wilful denial of the right to life, is an attack on the essence and the foundations of our democracy.

“It is a fundamental assault on the principle of equality. In the midst of exemplary service to the community during the health emergency, the Garda Siochana will mourn the death of a colleague.”

North of the border, Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Simon Byrne offered his condolences.

“Awful news this morning coming from @GardaTraffic with the death of a Garda colleague in Castlerea,” he tweeted.

“Thoughts from all @PoliceServiceNI with his family, friends and colleagues at such a difficult time.”

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A Garda at the scene of the shooting (Niall Carson/PA)

A Garda at the scene of the shooting (Niall Carson/PA)

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A Garda at the scene of the shooting (Niall Carson/PA)

In 1980, two members of the Garda were shot dead near Castlerea in the village of Loughglynn.

Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne were killed by armed bank robbers.

Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten said the community was in shock.

“We are absolutely devastated, shocked and saddened by what we heard overnight,” he told the PA news agency.

“A member of An Garda Siochana doing his job protecting the community has lost his life in such very tragic circumstances.

“This is devastating news for his family and the gardai in the Castlerea district and for the local community, and our thoughts and prayers are with Colm’s family at this time.”

Mr Naughten said the memories of the shooting of the two gardai in 1980 had been evoked by the murder.

“It’s just coming up on their 40th anniversary so that will add to the sense of loss within the community over the coming days,” he said.

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