A monument to honour two Gardai killed in the line of duty after a bank robbery in Ballaghaderreen in 1980 will be unveiled today Friday, July 28th at the scene of the tragedy by the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan.
Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne lost their lives on July 7th 1980, after intercepting armed bank raiders at Shannon’s Cross, just out the village of Loughglynn in West Roscommon.
After today’s unveiling of the monument at 3 pm by Minister Flanagan, the Byrne and Morley families will plant two oak trees in memory of their loved ones. A book containing stories and reflections from local people, colleagues and friends will also be launched on the day.
The shooting dead of the two young officers shocked the nation at the time. Both were married with young families. 37-year-old John had been a well-known Gaelic footballer and 29-year-old Henry Byrne’s grandfather was among the 15 visionaries who witnessed the apparition in Knock, the Mayo parish where both he and John hailed from.
Garda Byrne was killed instantly on that fateful day in 1980 after one of the raiders opened fired when the Garda and getaway cars collided at Shannon’s Cross. Detective Garda Morley exchanged fire but was fatally wounded. The three raiders, who had taken £35,000 from the Bank of Ireland branch in nearby Ballaghaderreen, were later apprehended after an extensive manhunt.
Six days after the tragedy, the Connacht SFC Final at Dr. Hyde Park on July 13th 1980 between Roscommon and Mayo was overshadowed by John and Henry’s deaths with both teams wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.
Three men, Peter Pringle, Patrick McCann, and Colm O’Shea, were convicted of the murders of the two Gardai but their death sentences were commuted to 40 years imprisonment. O’Shea and McCann were released after serving 30 years and Pringle’s conviction was overturned in 1995.
A local committee including Brendan Gordon, Michael Creaton, Kevin Murtagh, Martin Freeman and Martin Duggan worked to ensure the monument to the fallen Gardai became a reality.