Paul Healy’s Week


In solidarity with family and

colleagues of Detective Horkan


A solemn, single tweet from a journalistic colleague alerted me to the breaking news in Castlerea that would grow overnight into heartbreaking tragedy.

It was 1.30 am in the early hours of Thursday. We had finished last week’s Roscommon People a few hours earlier. It was, until now, a normal, quiet night in a rural county still technically under lockdown.

At 3.30 am, one of our delivery team rang. The Roscommon People was printed, but he couldn’t gain access to shops in Castlerea. The streets were cordoned off and there was a huge Garda presence. The sense of foreboding grew.

A few hours later, the devastating confirmation came. Castlerea, our county, the nation, woke from sleep into a real-life nightmare. For a family in Charlestown, the ultimate loss, the violent death of a heroic son and brother.

Detective Garda Colm Horkan had been shot dead overnight in Castlerea. The enormity of what had happened was overwhelming. One week on, it’s still hard to believe that peaceful Castlerea could be visited by such a fate on what ought to have been an ordinary Wednesday night, one that should have quietly passed into an anonymous place in history.

As the days passed, those of us who didn’t know Colm Horkan got to know him. Or so it seemed. A picture emerged of a great Garda, a loving family man, a proud community person, a friend who did good deeds, a sports lover who enjoyed life. It was moving to read of such a man. It was also heartbreaking.

It was deeply touching to observe the huge impact of Detective Horkan’s death on his shattered work colleagues. Our hearts go out to his colleagues in Castlerea and Ballaghaderreen, and to the Garda family through Roscommon, Mayo and nationwide. They have lost a loved colleague in cruel circumstances. They have also been reminded of the risks of their job. And we are reminded of the courage and bravery of our Gardaí as they put their own safety on the line in their protection of the citizens of this State.

The people of Castlerea and Ballaghaderreen, of Roscommon as a whole, distinguished themselves with their response to this momentous tragedy. In particular, one feels for the people of Castlerea. So many of the people of that town (and of Ballaghaderreen) knew Colm Horkan personally. They are deeply shocked by this murder. Not least as it also brings back memories of the double murder of two Gardai in the West Roscommon area in 1980. Henry Byrne and John Morley were both stationed in Castlerea at the time.

A nation weeps for Colm Horkan, who was given a dignified State funeral on Sunday. We are in solidarity with his family and friends, his work colleagues and with the people of Charlestown.

How poignant to hear his friend, retired Garda Sergeant John Hynes, speak so movingly on Liveline of Colm Horkan’s sensitive and important work, which was also highlighted in the Dáil on Wednesday by Deputy Denis Naughten.

We will remember Detective Colm Horkan, who died on duty, in the service of this nation. A good man gone far too soon. A much-loved man. May he rest in peace.


An apology from

political parties


An apology on behalf of the political parties: “Over recent months, we may have inadvertently given the public the impression that political parties of different persuasions were working together/singing off the same hymnsheet/all squeezing into the one green jersey, on account of Covid and all that. While elements of this were true, we would like to apologise for any confusion this outbreak of political tranquillity may have caused. We now wish to confirm that hostilities – or should we say normal political gamesmanship – are resuming with immediate effect”.

Translated, the above means that if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the Green Party form a new Government this weekend, Sinn Féin, Labour, smaller parties and selected Independents will go straight on the attack; in turn, the Coalition parties will gang up on Sinn Féin. Suddenly (but not credibly) FF and FG spokespersons will miraculously be of the same view on just about everything! Make no mistake about it, the next election campaign has already started (even if it may be 2-3 years away).

If the Greens vote against going into Government, we’ll all have to endure trading of insults between FF & FG and Sinn Féin, with the Greens demonised. Should this scenario unfold, we’ll have a sulky (but partly contrived) stalemate for several days, followed by more political poker. Meanwhile, it’s 140 days since the General Election, and the country is in crisis.

By the way, if a new Government is formed this weekend, I predict it will be a relatively short marriage of convenience. And the honeymoon’s already cancelled.

Still, the best of luck to all concerned!


For my next



I wonder if, somewhere in the UK, there’s a man who’s been saying to his wife for years that he’s invented a background noise suitable for empty stadiums should football matches ever be played behind closed doors?

And if she’s been rolling her eyes for years?

But now his big moment has finally arrived! I’m intrigued by these sound effects that have been added in by the TV companies as SKY and BBC broadcast the resumed games.

With no spectators present, the TV coverage has been cleverly enlivened by background noises from previous games being, hence creating a virtual atmosphere.

It’s very effective. From time to time you end up forgetting that there’s nobody at the games. When a goal is scored, the sounds are ramped up accordingly. And, even in this age of great technological wizardry, I gather there is an actual human who is skilfully operating the system at each ground. The other evening, when Spurs were coasting against West Ham, the virtual spectators casually broke into ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’.

Meanwhile, my imagined friend must have won over the approval of his doubting wife.

“And darling, you know I’ve had all these cardboard cut-outs of ‘spectators’ in the shed for years, well, I’m going to start mass-producing them…”