Popular, professional, compassionate, tragic and heroic were just some of the words used to describe the l 0ate Garda Gary McLoughlin, at civil reception held in his honour on Friday.
As his family gathered the county house in Lifford, the tragic Buncrana garda was given the highest honour - a posthumous honour in his memory.
Garda Gary McLoughlin, 24, was killed when he was struck by a car being driven by Martin McDermott at Burt in Co Donegal on December 14th, 2009.
Garda McLoughlin’s family including his mother and father Noel and Una, as well as brother Enda travelled from their native Fenagh in Co Leitrim to receive the honour.
Garda McLoughlin’s girlfriend Shauna Bradley, whom he had met while stationed in Buncrana, was also present.
Accepting the honour on behalf of his younger brother, Enda McLoughlin said the award means that Gary will never be forgotten with the people of Donegal.
“I am honoured to receive this honour – it assures us all that Gary will never be forgotten with the people of Donegal and in particular Buncrana and Inishowen. We were always proud of Gary and we are even prouder today,” he said.
Enda talked about how when he got the word he would be transferred to Donegal he was over the moon and how the people of the county were an enormous joy to his brother. He added they were now a “huge support” to the whole McLoughlin family.
“Over past two and half years people of Donegal have given us enormous courage to deal with the huge void in our lives and in the community of Fenagh. This is a day of celebration but it is tinged with sadness that Gary is not here to enjoy the occasion with us all today,” he said.
The county Leitrim man spoke fondly of Garda McLoughlin’s love for football, motorbikes and Arsenal Football Club.
“Like anyone else, Gary loved music, new computer games and football, especially Arsenal. Football and soccer were big parts of Gary’s life but cars and motorbikes featured even more.
“He once drove all the way to Cork to buy a new motorbike and when he came home, much to the amusement of his Garda housemates in Buncrana parked the bike, pride of place in the kitchen, but I think his housemates had the last laugh as they turned it into a clothes horse.”
Speaking at the reception, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said it was an honour and privilege to be there to honour Gary McLoughlin.
“Today is a day which is mixed with emotions for his [Gary’s] family, friends and colleagues as they recall his short service. The families of members of Garda Siochana are a support. Their love and understanding help us to do our job protecting our community.
“But unfortunately Garda families must also carry a burden of worry as loved ones face a risk of danger in their daily lives. That burden of worry becomes a burden of loss when members lose their lives in the course of their duty. We all feel the loss in our own way,” he said.
Mayor of Donegal, Noel McBride presented the McLoughlin family with a specially commissioned silver replica of the Donegal county badge by local goldsmith Geraldine Hannigan.
He said: “We have bestowed this honour on Gary so that his family know that he good people of Donegal cherished the work he did here and we continue to support his family and colleagues.
“He loved Buncrana and serving the people of Inishowen both professionally and diligently. He was looking forward to a bright career in an Garda Siochana but sadly he was robbed.”
Bridgend councillor, Jack Murray, who put forward the motion to host the ceremony talked how he remembered the day Gary lost his life.
“Garda McLoughlin died a few miles from my house, and when they said he was the same age as me. I remember thinking how a garda sacrificed his life protecting my community. The service today is a very fitting tribute to him, but it is an emotional day.”
Similarly Burnfoot councillor John Ryan offered his condolences to the McLoughlin family.
“I knew Gary personally and he was a true gentleman. He showed immense courage and he will be greatly missed. Inishowen has lost a true servant.”