Gardaí, PSNI checking ports and airports after shooting at wedding

Suspect, who is based in Republic, has large network of family, friends and associates in Britain

Members of the McGinley-Connors wedding party leave the church in Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh,  after the shooting on Wednesday. Photograph:  Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker

Members of the McGinley-Connors wedding party leave the church in Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh, after the shooting on Wednesday. Photograph: Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker

 

The Garda and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have stepped up checks at ports and airports on both sides of the Border over fears that the suspect in a fatal shooting at a wedding may flee the island. The man, who is based in the Republic, has a large network of family, friends and associates in Britain.

Security sources on both sides of the Border have said they know the suspect’s identity and are familiar with where he lives and his general routine.

The PSNI believes it can place him at the scene of the killing in Co Fermanagh and, because of that, they suspect he will try to flee.

The suspect was well known to the man who was killed – Bernard McGinley (63). He is also well known to other guests who were at the wedding and who witnessed the attack. Mr McGinley, from Co Longford, died after he was shot on Wednesday afternoon outside the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh.

He was one of the guests at the wedding of two young people from the Traveller community, Matilda McGinley (17) from Tallaght, Dublin, and Jimmy Connors (16) who is from the midlands. The murdered man is understood to be related to Ms McGinley.

Shortly before the shooting, local parish priest Fr Michael King intervened to try to stop a serious altercation between a group of men, including Mr McGinley, during which there was some “kicking and thumping”. The fighting stopped briefly, but after the priest went into the church to prepare for the wedding service, it erupted again.

Fr King said the shots were fired as the teenage bride was standing at the back of the church and preparing to be escorted up the aisle. “I would urge those involved to give themselves up to police,” he said. “I think it would be in their best interests.”

The Garda and the PSNI are co-operating closely on the case. They believe the killer and his accomplices fled south of the Border immediately the shooting occurred. The PSNI says it knows the identity of the killer and those who aided him and has called on the men to give themselves up.

Mr McGinley suffered a gunshot wound to the chest outside the church on Main Street, Newtownbutler. He was shot in front of his wife Brigid and some of their grandchildren. Those involved drove off while Mr McGinley was driven by other wedding guests to Lisnaskea police station while the wedding ceremony continued. From there, he was flown by police helicopter to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, where he died.

A second man was also injured in the course of the incident, but he did not sustain life-threatening injuries.

The officer leading the investigation into the murder, Det Chief Insp Una Jennings, appealed to those involved to give themselves up.

“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.”

“We are following a number of very definite lines of enquiry in this investigation, thanks to accounts of events outside the church before the wedding ceremony given to us by other guests,” Det Chief Insp Jennings added.