Saturday 24 March 2018

Priest says it was 'lucky no one was killed' after thugs almost rammed hearse off the road during funeral chaos

* Hearse carrying coffin almost rammed outside church in Co Clare on Sunday
* Armed gardaí on patrol in Co Mayo this morning
* Two men hospitalised and six arrested in second attack

St Patrick's Church, Ballyhaunis and Inset Martin 'Red Breast' McDonagh
St Patrick's Church, Ballyhaunis and Inset Martin 'Red Breast' McDonagh
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Two men travelling to a funeral have been rushed to hospital after a savage attack this morning.

The pair were driving to the funeral of traveller Martin "Red Breast" McDonagh in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo when their car was rammed by a group of men.

One man was badly beaten and the second was slashed. Armed gardaí arrested six men in connection with the attack.

The incident came less than 24 hours after a group of thugs almost rammed a hearse carrying Mr McDonagh's coffin outside SS John and Paul Church in Shannon, Co Clare.

Local parish priest Fr Tom Ryan, who witnessed the first incident, explained that tensions flared up during the removal.

Armed gardaí flocked to the scene after number of people started driving vehicles at one another.

It is understood that the hearse, carrying Mr McDonagh's coffin, was almost struck during the incident.

Fr Ryan said: "Their [An Garda Síochana's] quick and immediate response definitely prevented a potential loss of life or injury to people."

This morning armed gardaí from the Regional Support Unit (RSU) were on patrol in Ballyhaunis for Mr McDonagh's funeral at St Patrick's Church in the town as part of a policing plan.

"This man's remains were being removed from the church in Shannon, Co Clare when a group of men started driving cars at each other," a senior source said.

"Then this morning there were two men travelling in the Devlis area when their car was rammed. One man was slashed and the other lad got a bad beating."

Both men were brought to Mayo Universtiy Hospital in Castlebar where their injuries are described as "serious but not life-threatening".

The suspected attackers are all believed to be from Co Donegal and were not known to local gardaí.

A garda spokesman said: "Gardaí at Ballyhaunis are investigating an incident that occurred this morning in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo. Two men received non-life threatening injuries.

"In a follow-up operation six people have been arrested and are currently detained under the provisions of section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.

Fr Tom Ryan. Picture:
Fr Tom Ryan. Picture:

"They are detained at various station in Co Mayo."

Parish Priest Fr Tom Ryan, who officiated at the funeral, was in Co Clare on Sunday when the tensions boiled over.

He told "I want to extend my sympathies, and the sympathies of the parish, to the family of Martin McDonagh, known locally as Red Breast.

"The incident on Pentecost Sunday in the grounds of the church and funeral home is totally unacceptable behaviour to happen at any funeral or in any community.

"Those responsible brought shame on our community but it also must be made very clear that they came from outside the county of Clare and outside the country and in no way were the local travelling community in Shannon involved.

"They are embarrassed by the actions of those responsible. I want to compliment the local gardaí in Shannon for their presence and swift response to diffuse a very lethal situation.

"Their quick and immediate response definitely prevented a potential loss of life or injury to people and this must be acknowledged and put on the record.

"What people saw and witnessed in Shannon on Sunday should never be seen again."

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