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'It's very difficult when it's one of your own colleagues' - impact of Detective Colm Horkan's death

Former Kerry footballer Aidan O’Mahony has been working in An Garda Síochána for some 14 years.

FORMER KERRY FOOTBALLER Aidan O’Mahony says the death of detective Garda Colm Horkan left a lasting impact on the force, and was a difficult time for his colleagues.

DW6I0438 Former Kerry defender Aidan O'Mahony.

Horkan, who served in An Garda Síochána for 24 years, was shot and killed while on duty following an incident in Castlerea in June.

He was a former Mayo U21 footballer as well as a member of the Charlestown Sarsfields GAA club. Horkan’s death was the third incident in recent years where a garda was killed while on duty. Garda Adrian Donohoe was killed on 25 January 2013, and Garda Tony Golden was killed on 11 October 2015.

O’Mahony has been working in the force for between 13 and 14 years and says he’s always aware of the dangers involved in his job whenever he leaves his home.

“It was very difficult, when it’s one of your own colleagues like that,” O’Mahony begins when asked about the tragedy of Horkan’s death.

Joining the Garda is one job that, when you leave the house every morning and turn the key, you don’t know what’s ahead of you.

“When you lose someone on the force like that, it’s tough on everyone because you’re going out the door every morning and providing a service to the people.”

Remarking on how his job changed during the Covid-19 lockdown, O’Mahony explains that their regular working week switched from six days on, four days off to four days on and four days off.

A buddy system was also introduced, whereby colleagues are paired up for six months to work the beat together daily.

Five-time All-Ireland winner and Rathmore clubman O’Mahony says his partner was a Templemore student who also happened to play football for the Legion club in Kerry.

“I’d say he was a worried boy for a few weeks before he came out of Templemore knowing he was going to be attached to me for six months,” he laughs.

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The lockdown period was a strange and challenging time for O’Mahony and his Garda colleagues. When restrictions were particularly tight and social movement was minimal, it created a lonely atmosphere for them to work in.

Their job often brought them into the company of people who are living alone and had little contact with anyone outside their home during the lockdown months.

“You were trying to get used to this new way of life, people were on edge,” he continues. 

“It was very eerie like. You’d be at checkpoints at seven o’clock in the morning and you mightn’t see someone until 11 or 12 o’clock that day.

“Walking through Tralee town on the beat and no-one around. It was something that I’ll never forget in my life and I think, being a guard as well, you’re thinking of leaving home every morning and you’re dealing with incidents and coming across people.

“You have three or four vehicles everyday calling into elderly people or vulnerable people. You were dropping in medicine and dropping shopping to them. You were calling into someone who mightn’t have seen someone in two or three days.

“Or they might living on their own and you’re their only point of contact, so from our side, you’ve obviously seen stress. Their day might be going down to the shop for a few hours or meeting their friends, and all this is taken away from them.”

Speaking of his pride in how his co-workers carried out their duties to help stop the spread of Covid-19, O’Mahony added:

I think more than anything this year, the Garda Síochána has really stood up in dealing with the public. My own Mom is 82 years of age and if you’re bringing something home, the last person you want to bring it home to is someone in their 80s.

“You call to someone’s door breaking bad news but at the end of the day, that’s what I signed up for. I’m in the job now 13 or 14 years but I think the Covid lockdown has been a bit of a learning curve and we’ve learned a lot in the job [over] the last couple of months.”

Ireland Active ambassador, Aidan O’Mahony, was speaking at the Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena to launch the fifth annual National Fitness Day, which will take place on 24 September, 2020.

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