It was a grey June day in 1996 and I was at the Munster semi-final in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds, watching Limerick beat Clare in a match I can still remember vividly.
Vividly, because growing up in Limerick with one parent from Clare, there were only so many matches we went to with opposing flags hanging out on either side of the car and my loyalties silently divided in the back seat.
The subsequent All-Ireland defeat to Wexford in yet another last-minute loss was my last flirtation with sport. A girl can only have her heart broken so many times.
The other reason I remember that day so vividly was the sense of grim, shocked betrayal that filled the ground during a moment’s silence for Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, who had been shot down in cold blood on the main street of chocolate-box Adare just over a week previously.
It was the first time a political moment meant anything to me; an ordinary man just doing his job, shot by those who claimed to represent a cause but whose cause seemed to be nothing but bloodshed and criminality.
The killing of Jerry McCabe was a watershed moment because it was then that people in quiet, rural Ireland, nowhere near the border, realised that some types of Republicanism were no longer worthy of that name.
The men who killed Jerry McCabe were inexplicably brought into the fold by Sinn Féin in its negotiations for both the Belfast Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement. The party had previously condemned the crime but acknowledged that someone, somewhere in the IRA hierarchy had authorised it. Gerry Adams was careful to disassociate it, and himself, from the IRA Army Council.
On Tuesday in the Dáil the Sinn Féin President and TD for Louth, Gerry Adams, apologised for the murder of Jerry McCabe.
He apologised for the actions of a group of people he still rejects an association with.
His apology, introduced in the context of the tragic murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe in his own constituency last weekend, is the most cynical exercise in political opportunism I have seen. It left me speechless.
Sinn Féin has come a long way. And it has many excellent public representatives here in Cork and nationally, who have no blood on their hands. I have no doubt that they are as shocked and appalled at this blow to the heart of what our community is, as anybody else.
An apology for the murder of Jerry McCabe is long overdue. But at this time, in this manner and with the political aim of reaching out to Adams’ own Louth constituents who have been so shocked at the murder in their midst this week, it is an insult.
The families of Jerry McCabe and Adrian Donohoe deserve more than to be used to score political points. May they both rest in peace.