TWO men were arrested yesterday as they tried to make their way to a safe house after a criminal was shot five times in the head at his step-brother's wedding.
Robert Sheehan (21) was in a critical condition last night after a gunman repeatedly shot him early yesterday morning as he smoked a cigarette outside the Bunratty Castle Hotel in Co Clare.
Investigating officers believe the shooting was carried out in retaliation for the stabbing of a well-known Limerick criminal in Moyross in July.
Sheehan was one of three teenagers jailed for the arson attack on Gavin (4) and Millie Murray (6) in Limerick in September 2006.
He had been celebrating the wedding of his step-brother, Andrew, when he was targeted just before 4am yesterday.
Gardai are investigating the possibility that Sheehan may have been lured outside the hotel by a call to his mobile phone.
The Irish Independent has learned that he suffered five wounds to the head when a gunman shot him at close range in a car park near the entrance to the plush hotel.
It is understood the assailant was masked and that there were between 10 and 20 people outside at the time.
Another bullet lodged in the wall, but no other wedding guests were harmed.
The gunman and an accomplice who was also male made their escape in a dark saloon vehicle.
As gardai responded to reports of the shooting, they immediately made a major breakthrough when the handgun used in the attack was recovered near The Creamery bar and restaurant, just a short distance from the hotel.
It was found on open ground along with a small quantity of ammunition by people out walking.
Hours later as gardai in Clare and Limerick hunted for the gunmen, an off-duty officer on his way to work became suspicious of a vehicle travelling on the northside of Cork city at around 10am.
The car was stopped by gardai and two Limerick criminals from the northside of the city were arrested.
While investigations are still at an early stage, gardai are focusing their inquiries on the two men, both aged in their 20s.
The pair, who it is believed were trying to make their way to a safe house, were last night being held at Mayfield and Gurranabraher garda stations in Cork.
One of the men arrested is related to a criminal who had his neck slashed in a vicious fight in broad daylight in the Delmege Park area of Moyross on July 17.
It is believed the injured man was attacked and knifed after he began seeing a woman who is also known to Sheehan.
No complaint was made to gardai following the attack.
Prior to it occurring, the apartment where the criminal lived on the northside of Limerick was broken into and trashed by intruders.
Tensions in Moyross were said to be running high following the July attack, and there were major fears that the violence would escalate before the weekend's gun attack in Bunratty.
Last night, Sheehan's family, including his mother, Majella, and friends gathered at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick where the father of a young son remained in a critical condition.
The shooting was a tragic end to what was supposed to be a day of celebration for the newlyweds, who have no involvement in any criminality.
It is understood that up to 130 guests had attended the wedding, and the vast majority had no idea of what had happened until hours after the shooting.
Investigating officers were yesterday continuing to take witness statements from other wedding guests.
Tour buses and day-tripping families continued to make their way to Bunratty yesterday unaware of the shooting close to the castle that is one of the country's most popular tourist attractions.
Officers at Shannon garda station are appealing to anyone who was in the vicinity of the hotel between 3am and 4am to contact them on 061 365900.