A bride and groom continued with their wedding in County Fermanagh, on Wednesday, despite the shooting dead of a man in the wedding party. Another guest was also shot and stabbed with a machete.
Barney McGinley, said to be in his 60s and from Athlone in County Westmeath, was shot dead outside the church. Another man, in his 30s and said to be McGinley’s relative, was also shot and received a stab wound from a machete.
The Evening Herald reported that this was a “violent ambush” which took place outside the wedding of teen Traveller couple Mathilda McGinley and Jimmy O'Connor, who is believed to be from Saggart, County Dublin.
The victim was flown to the hospital by Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter but later died.
The wedding went ahead. However, the reception, set to take place in a north county Dublin hotel, was canceled.
The wedding of the Traveller couple, with 50 people present, took place at the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh, near Northern Ireland's border with Republic of Ireland.
Before the ceremony commenced a dispute broke out between guests. Local priest Reverend Michael King told the Irish Times it soon turned nasty.
“There was a disagreement before the bride came and it was in the car park of the church grounds. I don’t know what it was about.”
Fr King said that two men were at the center of it.
“When I came down to the church they were arguing among themselves, and calling each other names. I went up and chatted to them and told them they were standing outside the school, and that in deference to the children, who would be out for recreation, to move away.”
The men, he said, were “kicking and thumping” each other.
“The women folk got involved as well. A group of women took one side and a group of women took another side, but the women were basically trying to get the men to stop fighting.”
“I pleaded with them to stop and they did, but then it started again,” said Fr King.
By this point the bride was waiting to walk down the aisle when someone shouted, “There’s shots, there’s shots.”
“So I went outside and did not see any evidence of anybody being shot,” he continued. “Then I noticed two or three people running down the road where somebody had been shot. I saw him getting up again and I assumed everything was okay.”
The priest decided to go ahead with the wedding.
“I could do nothing else, because they (the families) were anxious to get this girl married,” he added.
He described the bride as “a bit traumatized,” but he said to her “take a few deep breaths” and told her that she was safe in the church.
After the wedding the wedding party left and crossed back over the border towards County Cavan.
Local Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member Tom Elliott was outraged.
“It is horrific that a gun attack should take place anywhere, but when it happens in the grounds of a church and at a wedding it is even more sinister. There seems to be an element of people today for whom nothing is sacred,” he said.
“It is very worrying that certain people have access to firearms and are willing to use them for any reason. There is a significant onus on police to ensure that these criminals are caught and that the courts ensure they are locked up for a long period.”
Father Michael King told the BBC how the events unfolded: