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Kildare Gardaí Roll of Honour
James Durney
Four gardaí, with Kildare connections, who lost their lives in the line of duty have been named on the roll of honour in the Gardaí Memorial Garden. The garden was unveiled at Dublin Castle on 16 May 2010. Gárda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy presented a medal to the name of each gárda whose name has been placed in the roll of honour. Three of gardaí were stationed in Kildare, while one was stationed in Dublin.
Detective Gárda Richard Hyland, Maynooth and stationed at Dublin Castle, was shot dead by the IRA on 16 August 1940. Sergeant John Fitzsimons, who was originally from Cavan and was stationed at Monasterevan, died in 1963 as a result of injuries sustained when he was hit by a passing vehicle while investigating a road traffic accident at Monasterevan. Sergeant John Brennan, of Ballymore-Eustace station, died in 1982 as a result of injuries sustained when his vehicle collided with a lorry near Naas. Gárda William Anthony Roche, who was stationed at Newbridge, was killed in 1992 when he was hit by a vehicle while investigating an accident at Morristown Upper, Newbridge.
Richard Hyland was born on 26 October 1903 in Mayo to Peter and Mary Hyland. Peter was from Meath, while Mary was from Co. Kildare. In the 1911 census Peter Hyland was employed as a labourer in a corn mill, probably Kavanagh’s Mill, while the earlier years must have been spent travelling the country looking for work as the two younger children were born in Kildare, while the two oldest were born in Galway and Mayo (Richard). In 1911 the Hyland family were living at 3 Parsons Street, Maynooth. Richard was employed as a shop assistant before joining the Gárda. He was subsequently promoted to detective officer in the Special Branch, based in Dublin Castle. At the time of his death Richard Hyland was married and living at 101 Errigal Road, Dublin.
During the Second World War the IRA, in a desperate bid to raise needy cash, reverted to an old tactic of the 1920s – bank raids. Because of the war period and the revelation of a link between Germany and the IRA, police activity was at an all-time high throughout the country. The Irish government, deeply concerned about the IRA-German contact, began a crackdown on the organisation and during the summer of 1940 the Special Branch chipped away at IRA strength. Key men were picked up one by one. The bank raids had led to gun fights in the streets and the most serious and bloody conflict between the Gárda Síochána and the IRA since the foundation of the state. The period 1940-44 saw more than a dozen gardaí killed or seriously wounded by the IRA and an almost equal number of IRA volunteers either killed in open gunfights with the police or subsequently executed.
On 16 August 1940 the Special Branch raided 98a Rathgar Road in Dublin. The shop had been watched for some time and was thought to be an IRA training centre. In an effort to be first to catch the IRA, Sergeant Denny O’Brien decided to go in before his competitors in the Special Branch could get the credit and reward money from the slush fund, which was distributed periodically among zealous and particularly efficient officers. Inside the building Patrick McGrath, Tommy Harte and Tom Hunt were determined not to give up without a fight. Bursting out of the door firing revolvers and a Tommy gun, they cut down three Special Branch men, killing Sergeant Patrick McKeown and Detective Richard Hyland and wounding Detective Pat Brady. The three IRA volunteers raced down the street away from the stunned detectives who then opened fire and hit Harte. When McGrath went back to help him, both were arrested. Hunt managed to elude police until 22 August when he was arrested in a house on Gloucester Street.
The Military Court sentenced McGrath, Hunt and Harte to death. Despite appeals, and McGrath’s Easter Week record, only Hunt’s sentence was commuted. McGrath and Harte were executed by firing squad in Mountjoy on 6 September 1940. According to the Irish Times, Mrs Kathleen Hyland, widow of Richard was awarded £5,000 in compensation for the loss of her husband.

Four gardaí, with Kildare connections, who lost their lives in the line of duty have been named on the roll of honour.  Our thanks to James Durney.

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