Murdered garda Colm Horkan was one of nature’s gentlemen who never let his family or friends walk alone, a state funeral has heard.
Two of the detective garda’s brothers were among those to pay tribute during the service in his hometown of Charlestown, Co Mayo.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris addressed mourners, saying his colleague’s courage was on show the night he died when he stepped forward to be counted at the crucial moment.
Mr Horkan, 49, was shot dead on Wednesday in the town of Castlerea in Co Roscommon when he intervened in an incident unfolding close to the town’s Garda station. A man had been charged with murder.
On Sunday, gardai lined the streets of Charlestown as the coffin carrying Mr Horkan’s body was carried to St James’s Church – the same church where he had been baptised.
Members of his beloved Charlestown Sarsfields GAA club walked in the cortege, wearing their jerseys.
Other members of the community also gathered in large numbers around the church to show support for Mr Horkan’s father Marty, his sister Deirdre and his brothers Aiden, Brendan, Dermot and Padraig.
The coffin of the detective garda was draped in the Irish flag with his cap and gloves laid on the top.
Only a limited number of mourners were able to go inside the church due to coronavirus restrictions.
Garda planned the event to ensure Mr Horkan was afforded formal state honours within the current Covid-19 regulations on public gatherings.
Among symbols left at the altar to represent his life at the beginning of the service were his garda notebook, a Charlestown Sarsfields jersey and a Liverpool FC tie pin.
His brother Dermot explained the significance of each.
With his voice breaking with emotion, he told the congregation: “The Liverpool motto ‘you’ll never walk alone’ summed up Colm perfectly – he never let any of his family or friends walk alone.”
Later in the service, another of Mr Horkan’s brothers, Brendan, delivered a personal tribute on behalf of the family.
He said the outpouring of emotion from across the community had given the family strength.
“Our community has lost a pillar in the true sense of the word,” he told mourners.
“We struggle to comprehend the shocking events of Wednesday June 17 when a man was cut down in the prime of his life doing the job he loved, serving the country in the best way he knew how.”
He said his brother was a “gem” who was a “son and brother like no other” and a “wonderful uncle”.
“He had all the values you would associate with a good and decent human being,” he said.
“He was kind, considerate and 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. He seldom, if ever, made a bad decision. He lived his life by the book, which makes it all the more difficult to process the events surrounding that dark and tragic night some four days ago.”
Mr Horkan spoke about his brother’s great love for his local GAA club and said he always gave 100% on the field.
“And this was a mantra he brought into work and life in general,” he said.
“He’s provided the template as to how one should live life and get the most out of each and every day.
“Mine and the family’s emotions are in turmoil at this time as it has come time to bid farewell to a man who made our life so much better by his mere presence and actions.”
He said his brother left behind a legacy of “wonderful memories”, adding: “He had so much to live for and got such enjoyment of life that today seems like such a horrible and nonsensical event.
“One thing is for sure he leaves a legacy of wonderful memories which we will cherish and hold in our hearts forever as we say goodbye to a giant who brought such happiness to us all for the 49 fantastic and brilliant years he was here.”
Applause broke out across the church after Mr Horkan spoke.
Earlier in the funeral, Commissioner Harris told mourners Mr Horkan’s Garda service was marked by his “hard work and diligence”.
“Detective Garda Colm Horkan epitomised what all of us as members of An Garda Siochana should strive to be – he was approachable, well known and respected in his local community.”
He added: “In the end at 12 midnight on Wednesday evening his service is entirely characterised by his determination and courage in the exercise of his duty to protect this society.”
The commissioner told Mr Horkan’s family that the detective garda would always be remembered within the force.
“The manner of Colm’s death should not eclipse Colm’s life,” he said.
Concluding his remarks to applause, the Commissioner said: “I trust that those of us who continue to serve can honour Colm’s legacy in the manner we conduct our duties, in the manner we protect and serve this society and, as Colm did, step forward and be counted at the crucial moment.”
In his homily, Monsignor Tommy Johnston described the garda as one of nature’s gentlemen.
“The gunshots that rang out in the early hours of Wednesday morning echoed not just in the town of Castlerea but right across the country, spreading a story of tragedy and sadness and the loss of life of a detective garda,” he said.
“Colm Horkan was a good man, one of nature’s gentlemen. That and more, as someone said.”
He added: “On Friday night, as his body was brought back home, hundreds of people lined the streets from the GAA pitch to his home. As the hearse passed on its way those lining the street joined in a silent walk of welcome for a man who was dearly loved and respected in the community.
“Old and young gathered for that walk with the various teams, senior and underage, women and men flanking the hearse and the following cars, a silent salute for a man whose voice was gentle and his approach respectful.
“That gentleness and respect earned the goodwill of so many and endeared him to young and old.”
At the close of the service, gardai gathered around Mr Horkan’s coffin to remove the national flag and fold it.
It was then presented to Commissioner Harris, who in turn presented it to Mr Horkan’s father Marty. Det Garda Horkan was pre-deceased by his mother Delores and twin sister Colette.
Six gardai then lifted the coffin and carried it from the church in a slow march.
A large crowd was gathered outside the church to watch as the coffin was taken to a private burial.
Around an hour-and-a-half earlier, as the service began, a minute’s silence was observed inside the church and at Garda stations across the country.
President Michael D Higgins led a memorial service on the grounds of his residence at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid his respects at Garda headquarters in Dublin.
Stephen Silver, 43, from Aughaward, Foxford in Co Mayo, was remanded in custody at Castlerea District Court on Friday night charged with Mr Horkan’s murder.