Detective Garda Colm Horkan (13th Dec 1970 – 17th June 2020)
This tribute will be published in two consecutive parts.
On writing this tribute to one of his best friends and very close ex-colleague, John Hynes, Roscommon Branch, is brought back to St James’ Church in Charlestown on the morning of Colm Horkan’s funeral where John formed part of the Guard of Honour that stretched from the main gate, through the Church grounds to the main door of the Church. IN MEMORY OF COLM HORKAN
As the coffin entered through the gates, under the flags that best defined his life – the Irish tricolour to which he dedicated his professional life as a member of An Garda Síochána and the Green and White of his beloved Charlestown Sarsfields, being carried by his Garda colleagues – the only sound to be heard was the heavily-tipped footwear pounding out the slow march steps of the Pall Bearers in the otherwise stillness and silence of a community shocked to the core at what was happening. An hour or so later, all present would again hear the stillness and silence as ‘The Last Post’ was played by a lone bugler from the Garda Band as Detective Garda Colm Horkan was laid to rest beside his late mother Dolores and his twin sister Collette in the adjoining Cemetery. Just three weeks later, I would hear that same solemn piece of music being played at the memorial service at Shannon’s Cross, Loughglynn, Co. Roscommon to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the brutal murders of Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne at that very spot.
MANY FOOTBALL TITLES SCORED
Colm was born along with his twin sister Collette on 13 December 1970. His Aunt Kitty told me that “he weighed just two and a half pounds, but he was a fighter”. His family at the time owned a pub in Charlestown known as ‘The Dew Drop Inn’ and that’s where Colm’s parents Marty and Dolores reared their family – twins Colm and Collette, Aiden, Brendan, another set of twins Dermot and Deirdre and Padraig the youngest. From a very young age Colm had a huge interest in football and played at all underage and senior levels with Charlestown Sarsfields. He won titles for East Mayo U12, U14, U16, East Mayo Minor A League and Championship double in 1988, three East Mayo U21 medals, two East Mayo 11-aside medals, County Minor 11 and 15-aside Championship medals, County U-21 Championship in 1991, County Junior, Intermediate and Senior medals, Senior League Medal 1995, six Centenary Cups and seven Canon Henry Cups. He also played for the Mayo U-21 teams in 1989, 1990 and 1991. In the words of John Casey, Mayo football legend and a close friend of Colm, “I don’t think there are many who have won so much”. The late D/Garda Colm Horkan pictured with one of his best friends John Hynes, retired Sergeant from Roscommon.
FROM SERGEANT TO GREAT FRIEND
One of Colm’s first jobs was as a firefighter with Mayo County Fire Brigade. On 25 July 1994 he joined An Garda Síochána and on completion of training was assigned to Finglas Garda Station in Dublin. He spent three and a half years there and in January 1999 he transferred to Castlerea. This was the first time I met Colm. At that time, I was Sergeant-in-Charge of Unit C and he was put onto my unit. I would continue to be his Sergeant until his transfer to Ballaghaderreen in 2008. I still remember that day. I was devastated because at that stage it wasn’t just a colleague that was transferring, it was a very close and personal friend. We all have friends, then close friends and finally an inner circle of friends. I have an inner circle of friends of three people and Colm was one of these people to whom you’d tell things that you wouldn’t tell your own family. He was one of these friends. On his arrival in Castlerea, I knew I had got a great member. He was keen to learn and it was obvious he had gained a vast amount of experience in Finglas. Both of us had a huge interest in Crime Investigation. I had spent eleven years in Kevin Street Station in Dublin so we had a lot in common. That’s how our friendship started. Around 1999-2000 a lot of sexual crimes were being reported to Castlerea Gardaí. I was given these cases to investigate and as the volume increased, I needed assistance. Colm became my righthand man. He was the obvious choice.
DIFFICULT CASE INVESTIGATIONS
Over the next number of years, we investigated numerous cases of rape and child sexual abuse, with the most infamous of these being ‘The Roscommon House of Horrors’ case. As time went on, he excelled with these investigations. You could see the calibre of the guy. I could rely on him in pressure situations because I knew that he excelled under pressure. His attention to detail in criminal investigations was exemplary. Most of the cases were really sad and sombre, and that in some way brought us closer together both as Garda colleagues and personal friends. We spent a lot of time together in Dublin, attending the Central Criminal Court and we always shared the same accommodation in the IPA House in Glasnevin. We would be together for two to three weeks at a time. We’d spend the day in Court and then go for a long walk in the Phoenix Park to clear our heads, visit the Maples House Hotel in Glasnevin for dinner and a few drinks and then back to the IPA House to prepare for the following days in court. Prior to either of us taking the witness stand, we would spend a lot of time rehearsing our evidence, swapping roles of Defence Counsel’s cross examination. We both spent a lot of time with that exercise which always paid off. I can honestly say, had it not been for Colm’s dedication, attention to detail, always leaving no stone unturned and craving to get justice for victims, the convictions would not have been achieved as frequently as they were. Everyone at this stage knows that Colm followed Liverpool FC and made several trips to Anfield to watch them play. The Liverpool anthem is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and Colm never let any victim he encountered walk alone.