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As Ireland mourns a fallen hero, an ailing priest's appeal to halt garda station closures falls on deaf ears

IT WAS a priest's impassioned plea to the most powerful people in the country.

Shortly after 1pm, Fr Michael Cusack spoke from his heart of the fear that grips Ireland today.

Standing in front of the flag-draped coffin of slain detective Adrian Donohoe, he pleaded for the future of community garda stations.

Four hours later, the politicians voted to push ahead with the closure of nearly 100 stations.

Rarely has any public speaker caught his audience's attendtion in the way that an ailing Fr Cusack did in Dundalk.

He begged those with information on Det Gda Donohoe's murder to help catch the killers.

"If not, you're allowing Satan to ruin the lives of more and more people," he said.

Fr Cusack later collapsed at the graveside at Lordship cemetery and was taken to hospital, but not before he had had his say to the Taoiseach and members of the Cabinet, sitting towards the front of the church.



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Adrian's widow, Caroline, and their children, Amy and Niall, sat in the front pew.

"I think we need to look into the eyes of Caroline, look into the eyes of Adrian's parents, and allow what is best within us -- our humanity -- to recognise what evil can do when it's allowed to flourish in a community," Fr Cusack said.

Fr Cusack, whose father and grandfather were gardai, spoke of the role of gardai.

"My parents are now living in a rural community in Galway that has no police service.

"It only ever had one guard, but that one guard brought great security. Since he moved, two men in their 80s have had their heads bashed in, one left without hearing or taste for the rest of his life.

"I see it in the eyes of so many in that village, that they go to bed at night in fear. Is that the way we need to treat our brothers and sisters in our care?"

He said gardai were the "only profession in this country where we ask people to dance a dance with Satan, to come face to face with evil".

But just a few hours after the funeral, when the politicians returned to the Dail, a Fianna Fail motion calling for the reversal of the planned closures of 95 garda stations was heavily defeated by the Government.

FF's Timmy Dooley said the Justice Minister was shutting out the light in many rural communities, and that would return to haunt him.

Fr Cusack also called for anyone with information on Det Gda Donohoe's murder to come forward, saying: "I have absolutely no doubt that there are people who today know who has caused this dreadful sorrow in the lives of so many.

"And if there is anyone who knows anything about that, if you have any semblance of goodness in you, for God's sake, turn these people in.

"Which way do we go? How do we decide? Do we want to build a world of brightness and light, of truth and honesty, do we want to go with what is good?

"Or do we want to water down everything and dance with whoever wants to dance with us?

"Do we choose life, do we choose death? These are questions we really need to reflect on in a real way."

It emerged that Fr Cusack had discharged himself from hospital against medical advice to preside over the funeral.

He was being treated for a respiratory complaint but was asked by Caroline to attend the service. He is a close family friend of the Donohoes.

The cemetery was a sea of blue as the 'blue river' of marching gardai flooded into the churchyard, along with hundreds of people from all over the country.

Amid the the sombre rituals of the State funeral, the heart-breaking grief of Det Gda Donohoe's family was palpable.

Caroline held her children's hands tightly as they bade him farewell. Adrian's brother Alan helped lower the coffin into the grave.

Earlier, his brother Colm had spoke about his big brother who had wonderful qualities that endeared him to so many, including children.



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He said: "He was a professional to the last and died doing the job he was born to do, and a job he loved."

Sunshine and blue skies marked the final journey from the church to the cemetery after several hours of heavy rain. Throughout the morning, tears had merged with raindrops on the cheeks of his grieving family and colleagues.

Speaking in the aftermath of the Dail's decision to close the garda stations, FF justice spokesman Niall Collins said it was disgraceful that the Government refused to debate the issue of garda station closures.

"The comments of other people yesterday, particularly those of Fr Michael Cusack, echo the sentiments being expressed by myself and many other people across our communities.

"The Government sought to disgracefully avoid debate this week on the closure of garda stations, citing the funeral of Adrian Donohoe," he said.

aokeeffe@herald.ie