Garda headquarters is to review the awarding of the Scott Medal for bravery to five Laois-based gardaí who were caught up in an IRA bomb which killed one of them.
Laois Offaly Division Chief Superintendent John Scanlon made the announcement when speaking at the 40th anniversary memorial Mass for Garda Michael Clerkin in Portarlington at the weekend. Garda Clerkin was killed in the bombing at Gartyhinch, Portarlington 40 years ago.
The Mass was attended by three of the four surviving gardaí, their families and Garda Clerkin’s brother and sisters who travelled from Monaghan.
Commending the five men on their bravery, Chief Supt Scanlon confirmed that the men would now be considered for the medal. Apart from the dead garda, Jim Cannon, Tom Peters, Ben Thornton and Gerry Boyhan will all be honoured.
Chief Supt Scanlon praised the bravery of the five gardaí and confirmed that progress had been made in marking this.
“The Garda Commissioner (Nóirín O’Sullivan) has asked that a submission be prepared so the Scott Medals can be presented to these men,” he told the congregation.
Speaking afterwards to the Leinster Express, the Chief Supt said he had prepared this submission which would go before a review board which sits annually. He said it had been decided earlier this year that a submission be made.
“I have discussed it with the Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan and she is in approval that it be submitted.”
He declined to comment on why it had taken 40 years to reach this point. He confirmed that a recommendation was submitted for a Scott Medal some years back after the bombing on October 16 1976, but that this was declined.
He said it would always be a murder inquiry but that rulings made at the time mean it is unlikely that anybody will be prosecuted, because of legal issues that arose.
“I would always warn people who committed murder, always look over your shoulder. Murder is murder,” said Supt Scanlon.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan also welcomed the move.
“I have spoken to the Minister for Justice about it and the garda commissioner and I believe it is long overdue.
“The gardai should be rewarded fully for their bravery and especially for Garda Clerkin who lost his life and paid the ultimate sacrifice. He was protecting my family and my father,” said the Laois TD.
The move was welcomed by the retired surviving gardaí, their families and Michael Clerkin’s relatives.
Retired sergeant Jim Cannon spoke out publicly before the Mass about the importance of the medal.
“I was very pleased that Chief Supt Scanlon said that the Scott Medal situation is now being reviewed.
“I am now confident that the four surviving members and the late Garda Michael Clerkin will soon receive the Scott Medal,” he said.
See reports from the memeorial in this week's Leinster Express