‘Colm Horkan was a good man, one of nature’s gentlemen’

 Homily by Monsignor Tommy Johnston, PP, Charlestown


The gunshots that rang out in the early hours of Wednesday morning echoed not just in the town of Castlerea but right across the country, spreading a story of tragedy and sadness and the loss of life of a Detective Garda.

A news reporter on an early morning bulletin said the community of Castlerea is shocked and deeply saddened by this death. The name has not yet been released but we know he was from Mayo and so another community will be shocked and saddened by this death, and I thought, I pity the priest who has to do that funeral. Little did I think I would be that priest and that the Detective Garda was Colm.

Colm Horkan was a good man, one of nature’s gentlemen, that and more, as someone said. On Friday night as his body was brought back home, hundreds of people lined the streets from the GAA pitch to his home. As the hearse passed on its way those lining the street joined in a silent walk of welcome for a man who was dearly loved and respected in the community. Old and young gathered for that walk with the various teams, senior and underage, women and men flanking the hearse and the following cars, a silent salute for a man whose voice was gentle and his approach respectful. That gentleness and respect earned the goodwill of so many and endeared him to young and old.

Today we have gathered in the church to bring Colm before the Lord with prayer. This is the church where Colm was baptised, where he received his First Communion and Confirmation. Here for a number of years he was a Minister of the Word and now he is here for the final farewell.

As we pray our farewells for Colm we remember also in prayer his family and the many friends who mourn his passing. We sympathise with his Dad, Marty, his brothers Brendan, Aidan, Paraic, Dermot and his sister Deirdre, his nephews, nieces, his sisters-in-law and aunts and uncles, his colleagues in the Garda Síochána, the community of Charlestown, his home, and the communities of Ballaghaderreen and Castlerea where he served. Service is such an apt word for Colm for he truly was a man of service, dedicated and diligent. Colm loved his life as a guard and gave it his complete commitment.

One of the good things that have emerged from Covid-19 is that it has helped us to recognise the importance of our frontline workers and up there, very much to the fore, are our guards helping to keep the nation safe. Their work never ceases, 24/7 a guard is on duty, in the words of a prayer they ‘watch over us while we sleep and protect us while we are awake’, under the protection of their patron, Blessed Michael, the Archangel. We thank our guards for their commitment and dedication. Long may we be blessed by men and women of true dedication and service, men like Colm Horkan.

Death brings sadness and grief and loneliness and loss, and it also brings questions, questions that may take us beyond ourselves in our search for answers.

In the case of Colm, questions have us wonder why did this tragedy happen, why did Colm die, why was this life which had so much to offer taken away so soon. I cannot answer those questions, but it seems when God takes the young he takes only the very best. Why? Has God some special task for them? Has God some special task for Colm? God’s plan has a purpose way beyond our imaginings. Into the darkness of grief, of sadness, of loss, of hurt, of anger God can bring a light of goodness, a ray of hope to open heart even fleetingly to the reality of his goodness. We pray for a ray of hope, a light of goodness to bring its blessings to those remembering in grief and sadness this good man, Colm.

I read recently words from the late Fr. Thomas Finan, a Maynooth professor who said, ‘The next life begins by grace in this world. Death is a raising up to glory, a transfiguration of the life that is already in the Christian’. The many excellent qualities we knew in Colm spoke clearly of that grace within, of a goodness that can one day be transformed and become the goodness of glory. We pray for that transfiguration to glory for Colm, that gift of resurrected life in the happiness and peace of Heaven. May his gentle soul rest forever in the peace and joy of Heaven.