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Retired Det Gda Ben O'Sullivan who has died. Liam Burke Press 22

Detective Garda Ben O’Sullivan, who survived 1996 IRA armed robbery laid to rest

Mr O’Sullivan was shot 11 times when an IRA gang opened fire with machine guns – his colleague Jerry McCabe was killed.

THE FUNERAL FOR retired Detective Garda Ben O’Sullivan who was twice decorated with medals for bravery, and survived an IRA gun attack in which he was struck by 11 bullets was held in Limerick today.

Mr O’Sullivan, 78, died last Friday, surrounded by his family in Milford Hospice, Limerick, following a short illness.

During his career the native of Mallow, Co Cork, was presented with Scott Gold Medals; the first in 1994 after disarming a gunman in Limerick city in 1992; the second in 2000 after he survived the IRA shooting in 1996 and later testified against the men who carried out the atrocity.

Fr Noel Kirwan, assisted by family friend Fr Donal McNamara; Garda Chaplin Fr Joe Kennedy; Fr Derek Leonard, and Fr Sean Harmon, Chaplin at University Hospital Limerick, said Mr O’Sullivan’s enduring “love for his family and nature” had helped him through dark days following the fatal shooting in Adare, on 7 June, 1996. 

Mr O’Sullivan sustained 11 gunshot wounds when an IRA gang opened fire with machine guns, firing off 15 rounds into his unmarked patrol car that had been escorting a cash mail van.

His close friend and colleague, detective garda Jerry McCabe, who was sitting next to him in the patrol car, was killed instantly in the attack.

Fr Kirwan said, while the State had recognised the two detective’s bravery, that the Scott medals awarded to them also served as a poignant reminder “that there is a price to pay always, for the gardai themselves; for their families; for their colleagues”.

He said Mr O’Sullivan, survived by his wife Anne, three daughters Marianne, Evelyn, Aoife, and son John, was one of the most “dedicated” crime fighters and protectors of the peace the country had ever seen.

“Obviously a huge part of his life was his working life in An Garda Síochána, a guardian of the peace, and this gave him meaning in life, to have such a responsible job, to be responsible for us, to take care of us, to do everything that he could to keep people safe.”

Hundreds attended the funeral mass held at St Mary’s Church, Athlunkard Street, Limerick City, including aide de camps for the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Jerry McCabe’s widow, Ann, and family members attended Mr O’Sullivan’s funeral mass, and members of the Limerick Garda Division later performed a guard of honour outside the city’s garda headquarters on Henry street, as the funeral cortège paused outside the station for a minute’s silence.

Speaking at her father’s mass, Ben O’Sullivan’s daughter Evelyn thanked the doctors and nurses who had cared for her father in his final day: “The expert care given, and the kindness shown to Dad made very difficult days a little easier to bear, Míle Buíochas.”

A lone Garda bugler performed The Last Post as Mr O’Sullivan was laid to rest at Kilcornan Cemetery.