Thousands expected at State funeral for slain Swinford garda

Final act of selflessness sees late Garda McCallion donate his organs

The late Garda Robert McCallion.

The late Garda Robert McCallion.

Garda Robert McCallion, a 29-year-old native of Swinford who lost his battle for life at Beaumont Hospital Dublin on Tuesday, has been described as a “hero”.

Twelve days after Garda McCallion was knocked down by a stolen car in Letterkenny, his fight for life ended. He had been on life support but never regained consciousness. His family maintained a vigil at Robert’s bedside. A post mortem on his body took place on Wednesday.

Two teenagers face charges arising out of the incident and are due before Harristown District Court next Friday. An 18-year-old charged with dangerous driving causing serious harm to Garda McCallion is to be released on bail. Jamie McGrenaghan of Gortnacraw, Kerrykeel, Fanad, Co Donegal, had been granted bail by the High Court in Dublin last Monday. On Wednesday, Buncrana District Court approved his mother Margaret McGrenaghan as surety. Cathal Duleavy, 19, of Meentagh, Glenvar, Kerrykeel, is also charged with taking a car at Tara Court and he is in custody at St Patrick's Institution.

At the second day of the annual Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors conference in Athlone on Tuesday middle ranking gardaí expressed their sadness for the McCallion family. Commissioner Fachtna Murphy also expressed his deep regret and sympathy to the family, friends, and colleagues of Garda McCallion.

The gardaí in attendance from Donegal, where Robert McCallion was serving at the time of his accident, in particular remembered him at what was described as a “sombre conference”. They said he was a fine young man, everything that people would have wanted in a garda. He was described as honest, upstanding, and someone who was always first to respond to a call.

RTÉ’s crime correspondent Paul Reynolds told the lunchtime news that people see Garda McCallion as a symbol of the dangers that most gardaí face every day in their work.

The news of Robert’s death has saddened his friends and neighbours in Swinford where he was a popular member of the community. Prayers for Garda McCallion have been said locally since the incident in Letterkenny on March 26 which ultimately claimed his life.

Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Swinford councillor Joe Mellett, spoke of his sadness at the news of Robert’s death. He said Robert was a “hero”. “I knew him as a neighbour, a footballer, and a customer. He was a most acceptable neighbour, an admirable footballer and exemplary as a customer. He must have been a very good garda,” said Cllr Mellett.

Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has expressed his sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Garda McCallion. “To see a young life taken in such a senseless way is truly devastating. This kind of tragic news makes us all the more aware of the work that the Garda Síochána are doing in our communities all over the country on a daily basis. It is vital that we continue to support the Garda in every way we can,” he said.

The six elected members of Ballina Town Council all gave expressions of sympathy to the McCallion family. Fianna Fáil councillor Annie May Reape led the expressions. She was joined by Mayor of Ballina Michelle Mulherin who said: “This is a terrible loss to the family and all who knew him.” Cllr Seamus Weir told the meeting: “This is a tragedy to happen to a young man going about his work, and to be killed in the line of duty like that is just terrible.” Councillors Johnny O’Malley, Jarlath Munnelly, and Eddie Staunton all joined in the condolences.

Garda McCallion was a talented Gaelic footballer who played for Swinford. He also won a minor club title in 1997 and played inter county football at under 21 level with Mayo. He graduated from Templemore Garda Training College in Co Tipperary on February 2 2007. He was one of 15 Mayo gardaí to graduate on the day. Flags at the Templemore College flew at half mast on Wednesday during the college’s most recent graduation ceremony.

Garda McCallion’s body was escorted by members of the Gardai from Mayo and Donegal yesterday when it was brought back to his native Swinford. Garda McCallion will repose at his home today from 6pm, with removal on Sunday at 7pm to the Church of Our Lady Help of Christians, Swinford. Where Garda McCallion will be honoured with a state funeral Mass which will be celebrated at 1pm on Easter Monday with the funeral proceeding to Kilconduff Cemetery. Family flowers only are requested, with donations in lieu to the Beamount Hospital Foundation if desired. The house will be strictly private until 6pm this evening.

Books of condolences have been opened at both Swinford Garda station, where Robert’s father served as a garda, and at Ballina Garda station where his brother is currently stationed. Even in death Robert was trying to save others by donating his organs. He is survived by his father Bob, mother Nancy, brother John, sisters Noreen and Deirdre, extended family and friends. May he rest in peace.

 

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