Sunday 25 February 2018

Bride and groom exchange vows after fatal shooting at their wedding

David Young and David Kearns

A bride and groom decided to go ahead with their wedding after two of their guests were shot outside the church.

One of two men shot at the wedding subsequently died.

The incident occurred outside St Mary's Catholic Church in the rural village of Newtownbutler in Co Fermanagh at around lunchtime.

It's understood two men were shot outside the church shortly before the bride was due to walk up the aisle.

The church is just yards away from a local national school.

It's understood one man was shot in the chest, while the other man was shot in the arm. Both men are believed to be settled Travellers and from Longford and Westmeath. They were aged in their 60s and 30s.

St Mary's Catholic church in the rural border village of Newtownbutler in Co Fermanagh .
St Mary's Catholic church in the rural border village of Newtownbutler in Co Fermanagh .
Members of the wedding party leave the church after the shooting in Co Fermanagh during the week. Photo by Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press

Both men were driven to a police station some six miles away in Lisnaskeagh.

From there, both men were conveyed to hospital in a police helicopter.

Both underwent emergency surgery - however the older man died. It's understood the younger man's injuries are not life threatening.

There are also unconfirmed reports that a third man was stabbed in the arm.

Fr Martin King comforted the bride after the shooting, telling her to “take a few deep breaths”, and the wedding ceremony went ahead.

“I said she should relax and that she was in a safe place,” he told BBC’s Evening Extra.

The priest said he realised something was wrong when he heard people screaming as the bride prepared to walk down the aisle.

“She was at the back of the church getting ready when people started shouting ‘Shots! Shots! Shots!’, I walked out to see what was happening and there was man lying on the ground surrounded by five or six others.”

Despite the bloodshed, Fr King insisted that the bride’s family wanted the wedding to go ahead.

“They were anxious to get the girl married so I went ahead with the wedding as there was nothing else for me to do.”

After the ceremony, a series of Hummer vehicles were seen outside the church. It's believed the party then travelled to a location in Co Cavan.

The shooting occurred just yards away from a national school.

When contacted by independent.ie, staff at St Mary's Primary School did not comment but did add that pupils and staff were unharmed.

One witness told independent.ie that “utter panic broke out” when the shooting began. “People were running everywhere, it was chaos."

Newtownbutler councillor Thomas O'Reilly, whose office overlooks the scene, said the community had been left stunned.

"In a very small rural area and village such as Newtownbutler, it is shocking that something like this would happen," said Sinn Fein representative Mr O'Reilly.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Detective Chief Inspector Michael Harvey said: "The victim was shot along with another man outside a chapel on Main Street in Newtownbutler at around 1pm this afternoon.

"He was flown to hospital in a police helicopter but died from his injuries.

"The other man, who is in his 30s, is not believed to have sustained any life-threatening injuries."

No arrests have been made in connection to the incident.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service confirmed that it received a call from police in Lisnaskea shortly after 1pm to say that two people had been brought to the station with gunshot wounds.

One witness said guests at the wedding took the men by car to the nearby police station after the shooting.

Spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, John McPoland, told independent.ie: “We’re not sure how the men arrived at the police station but it is our understanding they had been attending a wedding in the area."

Press Association

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