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Shannon’s Cross, Aghaderry, Loughglynn, Co Roscommon
Friday 28 July 2017
Speech by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD
Chairperson and members of the Memorial Committee, Assistant Commissioner McMahon, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, and most importantly the families and friends of the late Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne.
It is a great privilege for me to be invited here today for the unveiling of this memorial in homage to John Morley and Henry Byrne, two proud members of An Garda Síochána who gave their lives in the line of duty. The monument, erected at the place where they were fatally wounded, is a fitting tribute to their courage and is testament to the deep loss this community, and the nation as a whole, suffered on that fateful day on 7 July 1980. At the time many assurances were given that the ultimate sacrifice made by John and Henry in protecting the citizens of this State would never be forgotten; today, 37 years later, the unveiling of this monument is testimony that we have stayed true to our word. It is also testimony to the great regard that the local people had for John and Henry and continue to have.
I extend my sympathies to John’s wife, Frances and family and Henry’s wife, Anne and family, and their many friends and colleagues who continue to live with the loss of two fine individuals struck down in their prime – John at 37 years of age and Henry at 29 years. Two individuals who had much more to give as members of An Garda Síochána to their colleagues and communities, as husbands, fathers, footballers, and in many other guises. The collected memories in the book to be launched later today “Remembering our fallen heroes” gives wonderful insights into their characters and personalities and how much has been lost.
I also want to acknowledge the bravery of John and Henry’s colleagues retired Garda Derek O’Kelly and the late Sergeant Michael O’ Malley who thankfully escaped with their lives on that terrible day.
John and Henry are present in our thoughts today, but I would also like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the 86 others members of An Garda Síochána who have given their lives protecting the citizens of this State since its foundation. And as we gather here this afternoon, the men and women of An Garda Síochána continue to go about their duty throughout the country not knowing what challenges they may have to face during their shift - when they may have to find the courage to face down a criminal with a knife or a gun. That is the nature of the job; but it is important that we pay tribute to them and acknowledge their willingness to put themselves in the way of harm so that the rest of us can go about our lives secure in the knowledge that they are there to protect us and will do their utmost to do so.
The period of the State’s history when John Morley and Henry Byrne were murdered were dark days indeed. We are eternally grateful for the bravery and courage shown by the members of An Garda Síochána during those troubled times in our not so distant past. Thankfully, because of their sacrifice, we can live our lives in peace today.
We were in the midst of the Troubles and the State’s authorities had to face an unprecedented attack on its very existence from paramilitary groups who engaged in a long and bloody campaign of terrorist bombing, murder and criminality. Many of you gathered here will recall how those events sadly dominated our daily diet of news. So many lives were lost and so many people were bereaved, so needlessly.
In the face of that threat the brave men and women of An Garda Síochána, supported by their colleagues in the Defence Forces and by law-abiding communities the length and breadth of this country, stood firm in defence of this State and of our democracy. That unwavering belief in the rule of law, that bravery and dedication to duty, the very same that was displayed by Henry Byrne and John Morley on that fateful day in July 1980, was crucial to facing down that threat.
Their heroic bravery in our cause puts in sharp relief the ignominious cowardice of those who sought to undermine our way of life. The fond memory of John Morley and Henry Byrne, proud members of An Garda Síochána, will endure through the ages in the national memory and long outlive the grubby acts of those who dared to take their lives.
Thankfully, today, almost 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement, we live in safer times. However, we must not be complacent. The main security threat in the State continues to be from so-called 'dissident' republican paramilitary groups who are a priority counter-terrorism focus for An Garda Síochána. The Garda authorities continue to target those involved and to work closely with their counterparts in Northern Ireland in bearing down on these groups. The Gardaí and the PSNI deserve praise for their ongoing work in this regard.
Of course you will know that there an ongoing process of talks at Stormont aimed at establishing the Executive following the Assembly elections earlier this year. While much progress has been made in reaching agreement on a range of important matters, it has not yet proved possible to finalise an agreement that will facilitate the formation of the Executive for the time being.
That is, of course, disappointing.
The Government maintains its strong, ongoing commitment to the success of the institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement and we will continue to play our full part in supporting the resumption of power-sharing in Northern Ireland.
The Government is also committed to supporting the men and women in An Garda Síochána to ensure that they are equipped to deliver a 21st century policing service to the people of Ireland, a policing service that is visible in our communities across the country and that is responsive to their needs. To achieve this the Government has a vision of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. Accelerated recruitment of trainee Gardaí is continuing to redress the effects of the embargo on recruitment between 2009 and 2014. This year the strength of An Garda Síochána will increase by more than 500 members to 13,500 and the Government is committed to continuing this level of recruitment to bring numbers to 15,000. It is heartening to see the continued strong response to recruitment campaigns for Garda trainees and for Reserve members from people called to public service to support the mission of An Garda Síochána to protect and serve communities throughout this country.
This investment in personnel is not enough in itself. It must be backed up by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána to support them in doing their job effectively. That includes investment in training, critical ICT, Garda stations, and the continuous renewal of the fleet. And I am pleased to say that very substantial investment has been made available in recent years to ensure that members to spend more time out and about engaging with communities, gaining their trust and confidence and ensuring that the close relationship that An Garda Síochána has always enjoyed with the people it serves, and that is evidenced by today’s tribute to John Morley and Henry Byrne, will continue.
Today, is a proud but sad day for the family, friends and colleagues of these two brave members of An Garda Síochána. I hope that it is some comfort to you to know the depth of the esteem and respect that this whole community holds for both John and Henry.
The members of the Memorial Committee have put a lot of time and effort into arranging for this fine tribute and I would like to thank the Committee and, in particular, the Chairperson Brendan Gordon, for all they have done.
I will now unveil this fitting tribute to the John and Henry that will serve to remind all those who pass of the debt of thanks that we owe them and of the esteem in which they are held.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.