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Garda who faced down church gunman suffered flashbacks

A GARDA was left with nightmare flashbacks after disarming a gunman who had just shot two people in a church, a court heard.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine said Detective Garda Joseph Everard had acted with very significant bravery in chasing and arresting the gunman who had opened fire at a First Communion Mass for 60 children.

Yesterday she awarded Gda Everard, currently with the immigration police at Dublin Airport, €30,000 damages at a High Court garda compensation hearing.

Peter McCann (43) was jailed for 15 years for the admitted attempted murder of Sinn Fein official Larry O'Toole and the wounding of his young son, also Larry, in St Joseph's Church, Ballymun, on May 16, 1998.

His criminal trial, at which he pleaded guilty in April, 1999, heard how McCann, from north Belfast but with an address at Balcurris Road, Ballymun, shot Mr O'Toole and his son in the middle of the Mass.

The court heard how children had screamed and dived for cover as McCann fired a .22 Beretta pistol and shouted: "Larry O'Toole, you b*****d, you are dead."

Gda Everard (51) told Judge Irvine yesterday he had been sitting in a garda van outside St Joseph's Church on Saturday, May 16, 1998, when people ran screaming from the building.

Some of the Mass-goers were chasing the gunman. Gda Everard joined the chase, and eventually got to the front of the crowd and confronted McCann.

He had attempted to talk him into surrendering the gun and eventually succeeded in grappling it from him and bringing him to the ground. The crowd had wanted him to leave McCann to them and he had to protect McCann from them until other gardai arrived.

Gda Everard told the court he had suffered flashbacks of facing the gunman for years after the incident.

He said he had been treated by his GP, a counsellor and a psychotherapist who had diagnosed post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Judge Irvine said she was satisfied the incident had been a very serious event in which Gda Everard had faced down a gunman.

Irish Independent