Denise O’Regan looks back at Garda Adrian Donohoe’s death at the hands of a two-car convoy in the car park of Lordship Credit Union on the Cooley Peninsula on 25th January last year.
Just over a year ago, in a small unassuming car park in County Louth, Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was fatally shot during the botched robbery of a credit union by an armed gang of five individuals. He was providing a routine armed escort for staff transferring a large sum of money from the credit union to a bank. The unknown gang took off with €4,000 and a stolen car to the so called ‘bandit county’ of South Armagh. The crime that shocked the nation has led to one of the largest investigations launched in Ireland in recent years, with detectives following leads to the US and Australia, having received assistance from the FBI, Europol and Interpol. The case sounds like a storyline from a crime drama such as Love/Hate, but unfortunately it is an on-going investigation which has been met with a wall of silence by suspects and local gang members who are making sure no one talks, protecting them from justice in the hopes of thwarting the murder investigation.
The investigation began with detectives gathering and examining CCTV footage from County Louth and neighbouring border County South Armagh, and continues to this day north and south of the border. The cross-border nature of the investigation has been cited as a major obstacle; intelligence on the gang is low and due to the negative policing history of South Armagh, the PSNI do not have the means to obtain information from the public or from criminal sources. It is the first murder investigation into the death of a Detective Garda since the fatal shooting of Detective Jerry McCabe by the IRA in Adare in 1996. Those working on the case state that they wish to find those responsible and bring them to justice to honour the memory of their trusted friend and colleague, a man who has lovingly been described as a ‘gentle giant’ by those who knew him best. Detective Donohoe was a husband and a father to two young children under the age of ten.
To date, five suspects, all in their 20’s, have been identified by Gardaí and the PSNI in the course of the investigation. Detectives are currently waiting to question suspects who are due to return from Australia and the US when their visas run out. Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said that the entire gang will receive a mandatory life sentence of 40 years in a maximum-security prison if they fail to hand themselves in. The gang are suspected to have strong links and connections to dissident republican paramilitary organisations with a number of suspects having previous criminal convictions as well as being implicated in other criminal investigations. The horrific crime has not only had an effect on Donohoe’s colleagues and members of the force, but also on their families and countless communities in a country where Garda deaths in the line of duty are extremely rare and unforeseen.