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Monday 23 October 2017

Cross-border manhunt after wedding murder terror

Members of the wedding party leave the church after the shooting yesterday. Photo: Ronan McGrade
Members of the wedding party leave the church after the shooting yesterday. Photo: Ronan McGrade
One of the shooting victims was airlifted to Enniskillen's South West Acute Hospital. Photo by Ronan McGrade
Barney McGinley

Adrian Rutherford

A cross-border manhunt is under way for the prime suspects behind a shooting rampage at a Traveller wedding.

The PSNI and gardaí are both involved in the search for the killers of grandfather Barney McGinley.`

The 63-year-old was shot dead in the attack outside St Mary's church in Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh, on Wednesday moments before the marriage ceremony in the border village got underway.

A senior detective revealed Mr McGinley's killers were still at large, but police believe they know who they are looking for.

In a direct appeal to those responsible, DCI Una Jennings said: "Think about the prospect of a life of constantly looking over your shoulder".

A second man was also shot but his injuries are not life-threatening, and a third man was stabbed with what was described as a "scythe-type" instrument.

Barney McGinley
Barney McGinley

Mr McGinley, a member of the Travelling community, was from the Athlone area.

Read more: Bride and groom exchange vows after fatal shooting at their wedding

One of the shooting victims was airlifted to Enniskillen's South West Acute Hospital. Photo by Ronan McGrade
One of the shooting victims was airlifted to Enniskillen's South West Acute Hospital. Photo by Ronan McGrade

The shooting happened at 1pm on Wednesday, just before the wedding of teenage couple Matilda McGinley (17) and Jimmy Connors (16), believed to be from Saggart, Co Dublin.

Ms McGinley was about to walk down the aisle when the gunman opened fire outside the church. Mr McGinley suffered fatal wounds to his chest while a second man was shot in the leg.

Both victims were bundled into a white van and driven at speed to the police station in neighbouring Lisnaskea.

Mr McGinley was airlifted to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen but died a short time later.

The wedding went ahead minutes later at the families' request. Some members of the wedding party later returned to a north Dublin hotel where the reception was due to be held.

At Lisnaskea PSNI station, DCI Jennings said what should have been a day of joy had turned to one of heartbreak.

She said detectives were following "a number of very definite lines of enquiry".

"We are continuing to liaise with these individuals and families at this very difficult and tragic time," she said.

DCI Jennings appealed for those involved in the confrontation with Mr McGinley and other guests, and who drove off, to come forward.

"We are working with our colleagues in An Garda Siochána to locate those individuals. We know who they are," she added.

"It would be better for all concerned if they made themselves available to police as soon as possible so that we can build a complete picture of what happened yesterday and the background to those tragic events.

"I would appeal to those involved to think about what has happened and to think about the prospect of a life of constantly looking over their shoulder, fearing arrest or possible retribution.

"It would be so much better for them, and for all concerned, to come forward and make themselves available to police before any further bloodshed."

It is understood Mr McGinley's murder followed a long-running feud. Witnesses also told how foul-mouthed guests had come to blows in the church grounds.

Parish priest Fr Michael King, who married the couple, said he arrived to find scuffles erupting between guests. "I asked the families if they wanted to go on and they were anxious to proceed," he said. "I did so - but as quickly as I could."

Weddings among members of the Travelling community are common in border churches because of different marriage laws in the North.

Anyone over the age of 16 can get married with their parents' consent in the North, whereas south of the border both parties have to be over 18.

Fr King said he has performed numerous Traveller weddings in the last five years but this is the first occasion it had spilled into "real violence".

Irish Independent

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