Garda widow says she regularly thinks of the day her husband was killed by IRA

Ann McCabe widow of Garda Jerry McCabe who was shot dead in Adare in 1996 (PA)
Ann McCabe widow of Garda Jerry McCabe who was shot dead in Adare in 1996 (PA)

The widow of a garda who was killed by the IRA has said she still thinks daily about her husband’s death and hopes that Ireland is now a safe place for Gardai.

Jerry McCabe was killed by the IRA in 1996 during the attempted robbery of a post office van in Co Limerick.

His widow Ann McCabe has said she hopes an event where memorial quilts will be hung in a Limerick cathedral for more than a week will help younger generations understand The Troubles.

Seven memorial quilts that commemorate 500 victims, including Mr McCabe, are to be displayed in St Mary’s Cathedral in Co Limerick until November 28.

This is in conjunction with the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), which supports victims of The Troubles and their families.

Asked if such events helped to cope with grief, Mrs McCabe told the PA news agency: “No, grief is dealt with in a different way.

“My husband is dead 27 years now and there isn’t a day goes by that we don’t think about him.”

She said her life had “changed in every way” after he was killed, leaving behind five children.

Detective Garda McCabe was on duty with his partner Detective Ben O’Sullivan on June 7 1996 when the van they were escorting stopped at Adare.

The patrol car pulled up close by and as the van driver prepared to unload the mail, a Provisional IRA unit crashed a Jeep at full speed into the rear of the detectives’ unmarked patrol car.

Another vehicle arrived at the scene and its occupants opened fire on the Garda car, killing Detective Garda McCabe and seriously wounding Mr O’Sullivan, who was shot around a dozen times but survived.

In 1999, four men were convicted of manslaughter for the killing of Mr McCabe.

Asked whether she still thinks daily about the day her husband died, Mrs McCabe told PA she did.

She added: “I do. Jerry’s partner Ben O’Sullivan has passed away since, it was a miracle that he survived because they hit him with 11 bullets.

“Life goes on. I’ve wonderful family and friends. We have an organisation called The Garda Survivors, which I’m a member of, and we discuss problems when we meet up once a month… And we can express all our feelings.”

Mrs McCabe, whose father and two uncles were Garda members, and whose two sons are also gardai, said she hoped that no more officers would be killed in the line of duty.

She said she also hoped that Ireland was now a safe place for gardai.

She added: “I hope so. We are an unarmed force and hopefully it will stay like that. So that pleases me to know that, and I’m sure it pleases all members – even though the job can be very dangerous at times.

“Hopefully, it will be the last of the people that represent us to be murdered in the line of duty.”

One of the messages of the memorial quilts is that “violence was futile and totally unjustified”.

Asked whether that message was clear to younger generations who had not lived through The Troubles, Mrs McCabe said “you see, the younger generation today don’t remember the Ben O’Sullivans and the Jerry McCabes and all those who were murdered by terrorists, both north and south of the border”.

“Maybe when they realise the meaning of these quilts, there are a few of them with all the names on them, it might make them think of the past, maybe. I don’t know.

“But I would like to hope that they would remember all those who have died and are a victim of terrorism.”

She added: “Hopefully, it won’t happen again. But then again, the society we’re living in, some people have respect for the gardai but some people haven’t. That’s their choice. But my husband died for Ireland, it was not his choice.”