Sculpture unveiled in memory of slain garda

A garda who was murdered in a booby-trap bomb 30 years ago and his injured colleagues were today commemorated in a moving ceremony.

The family of Garda Michael Clerkin, who was killed the instant the bomb went off, were delighted his short life was being honoured by a special sculpture depicting a dove in flight.

Gerard Lovett of the Garda Síochana Retired Members’ Association, which commissioned the sculpture and the special Liddy Medals to honour his injured colleagues, said the commemoration was a moving event.

“Five of his six surviving siblings attended and his oldest brother Peter Clerkin, from Monaghan, accepted the award. They were thrilled – Peter Clerkin started making a speech but abandoned it halfway through,” Mr Lovett said.

“There was never anyone charged or convicted with the bomb so they never got closure, although there was no doubt it was the IRA.”

Garda Clerkin was killed instantly and four other officers were seriously injured when a no-warning blast went off as they launched a raid on an isolated cottage in Garryhinch near the Laois/Offaly border.

Detectives in Portlaoise had been given a tip-off that an armed IRA gang were holed up in the house preparing for a daring raid on a nearby town.

But as the five-strong garda team began searching for the Provisionals, a 100lb bomb ripped the house apart with 24-year-old Garda Clerkin and his colleague Det. Garda Tom Peters taking its full force.

Garda Peters was blinded and has not worked since.

The association commissioned the Liddy Medals to honour retired gardai who were seriously injured in the force. The first recipients to be honoured at the ceremony in Dublin’s Gresham Hotel, included Garda Clerkin’s colleagues – Garda Peters, Det. Garda Ben Thornton, Sgt Jim Cannon and Garda Gerard Bohan.

Garda Peters donated his medal to the Garda Museum as it is the first year the medals have been awarded.

The Liddy Medals are named after Sean Liddy who fought in the War of Independence, was a founding member of An Garda Síochana rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent and also sat in the Dáil. He died in 1965.

Mr Lovett described the booby-trap as a horrific attack.

“It was an attempt really to carry out mass murder of gardaí,” he said. “There was five gardaí lured to what was a booby-trapped house.”

Twelve republican suspects were arrested in Laois and Dublin in the days following the atrocity but no-one was ever charged with the crime.

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