Tuesday 16 January 2018

Police appeal to those involved in wedding shooting: 'Come forward before any more bloodshed happens'

Newly weds cancelled reception after guest shot dead in wedding attack

Ken Foy and Sam Griffin

POLICE investigating the shooting at a wedding in the north yesterday have appealed for those involved to turn themselves in.

A PSNI spokesperson said this evening: “We are working with our colleagues in An Garda Siochana to locate those individuals. We know who they are. 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.”

A man in his sixties was shot dead in the incident and another man was injured in the incident which occurred just minutes before a couple were due to walk down the aisle together.

Police officers believe a bitter and long-running Traveller feud was behind the attack which claimed the life of Barney McGinley, from Athlone, Co Westmeath, after he was shot in the chest.

Another man, related to Mr McGinley, also sustained injuries when he was shot in the arm - while a third man was hurt when he was attacked by a machete.

Members of the wedding party leave the church in Fermanagh after the shooting yesterday. Photo: Ronan McGrade
Members of the wedding party leave the church in Fermanagh after the shooting yesterday. Photo: Ronan McGrade

The attack happened in the normally quiet border village of Newtownbutler, located around 16 miles south-east of Enniskillen.

It occurred around 1pm on the road outside St Mary's Catholic Church, where Jimmy O'Connor, believed to be from Saggart in Co Dublin, and Matilda McGinley were due to get married.

The vehicle that was reportedly driven by the shooters was apprehended outside Lisnaskea police station. Photo: Ronan McGrade / Fermanagh Herald
The vehicle that was reportedly driven by the shooters was apprehended outside Lisnaskea police station. Photo: Ronan McGrade / Fermanagh Herald

Mr McGinley was flown to hospital in a police helicopter but later died from his injuries.

Father Michael King of St Mary's Church said he was getting ready in the sacristy when he heard screaming.

"I was in the sacristy getting ready for the mass and I heard a bit of commotion at the back of the church, some women came rushing in screaming 'Someone's been shot, someone's been shot'," he told Newstalk's Breakfast show.

"I rushed outside and didn't see anyone in the church grounds. Then I saw four young men down the road, they picked a man off the footpath and put him into a van to rush to hospital.

"The man was much more ill than they thought and unfortunately died.

"I'm conscious that this is a tragedy at a wedding, I'm conscious of the fact that people are bereaved and grieving.

"I offer my sympathies to all the families concerned.

"This is not something you associate with something happening at a wedding, weddings are meant to be joyful and a time when families come together."

The priest said he did notice a 'scuffle' outside the church approximately 30 minutes before the shooting, but was assured it had been resolved.

"The only thing I'll say is I did see a scuffle between a few people when I arrived outside of the church maybe half an hour before the wedding.

"The scuffle was in the carpark between two members of the Travelling community.

"I've been doing Travellers' weddings for some time," Fr King continued.

"I always get a sense of something simmering under the surface waiting to explode and yesterday it did explode with tragic circumstances."

Fr King said his attitude towards Travellers' weddings 'has been changing' for the past year.

"There is a lot of work attached to them. Couples are getting married under 18, this lad was just over 16 and the girl was just over 17.

"The reason they come this way to Northern Ireland, because this bride was from Dublin and the groom was from the Midlands... the reason they came here to get married is because you can get marrie under 18 in Northern Ireland.

"In the south of Ireland you need to be 18, so that's why so many of them come up here.

"The bride was very shocked after the incident," he added.

"When she came up to the altar I got her to relax and take deep breaths.

"I was shocked."

The wedding subsequently went ahead at the request of the bride's family.

The dead man was well known to gardaí, as are many of his close associates. The other shooting victim, in his 30s, did not suffer life-threatening injuries, nor did the man who was stabbed.

Local councillor Thomas O'Reilly, who has an office which overlooks the entrance to the church, described chaotic scenes immediately after the attack.

"Some of the people managed to get themselves to Lisnaskea police station. I saw the police cars going up the road, which was then cordoned off."

The men were rushed to Lisnaskea barracks, where they were subsequently taken to hospital by air ambulance. A white van was left abandoned outside the barracks yesterday.

The shooting occurred beside a primary school, where classes were taking place. However, none of the pupils were caught up in the incident.

The priest Fr Michael King said the bride's family were "anxious" for the wedding to go ahead. The wedding reception, due to be held in a north Dublin hotel, was cancelled. The bride and groom travelled to the venue, which had been decorated for the event, but were accompanied by just a few friends and family members.

Irish Independent

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