The shocking events of the 7th of July 1980, when Gardaí John Morley and Henry Byrne were shot dead at Shannon’s Cross outside Loughglynn after a bank raid at the Bank of Ireland in Ballaghaderreen, were recalled at a special memorial ceremony held on Tuesday at the location where the tragedy happened.
A crowd of over 300 people attended this 40th anniversary event. Those present included members of the Morley and Byrne families, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran, Roscommon County Council CE Eugene Cummins, senior gardaí, and representatives of Roscommon and Mayo County Councils and Roscommon and Mayo GAA, the Red Cross and the Civil Defence. Representatives of the family of the late Detective Garda Colm Horkan, who was shot dead in Castlerea last month, were also present.
Following the official blessing by local parish priest Fr. Liam Devine, wreaths were laid at the monument to the two men by members of both families, the Garda Commissioner and Roscommon and Mayo GAA.
Addressing the crowd, Garda Commissioner Harris stressed that it was very important that the memory of Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne was honoured.
“The two men showed bravery and courage as they protected the community, their colleagues and the State. We also remember today the late Sergeant Mick O’Malley and Garda Derek O’Kelly who were with the two men on that fateful day.
“Gardaí keep people safe every day, but there are times when they put themselves at extraordinary risk in the exercise of their duty, and that is the definition of courage. It is a heavy burden for them to carry and an even heavier burden for the families of our fallen colleagues. Tragically we have had to face that reality once again in the past month with the tragic killing of Detective Colm Horkan and we also remember him and his family today.
“The memorial committee who are responsible for the monument here and the book they published three years ago have done superb work. It has taken us behind the uniforms and helped to understand their impact as husbands, fathers, friends, colleagues and members of the communities that they lived in.
“I want to thank the local community for their remembrance of the sacrifice made by Garda Henry Byrne and Garda John Morley, and I know that will endure for many generations” he concluded.
Paul Byrne (son of Garda Henry Byrne) spoke on behalf of the Byrne family and thanked the local community for their efforts in providing the memorial which was unveiled three years ago, and for organising the 40th anniversary event.
Shane Morley, speaking on behalf of the Morley family, paid tribute to the strength of character shown by his mother Frances over the years since the tragedy. He also paid a warm tribute to the local community in Loughglynn and the local organising committee for their work over the years.
Bishop Kevin Doran said that the Gardaí had given great service to the country since the foundation of the State. “The Gardaí have served the people of this country largely as an unarmed force and I have always admired that. The Gardaí are a community-based organisation and that is coming through again as both men (being) remembered here today were so well respected in their communities”.
Master of ceremonies was the chairperson of the local organising committee, Mr. Brendan Gordan.