Tensions high as wedding attack victim mourned
EXTRA gardai were drafted into Athlone today for the funeral of Barney McGinley, who was shot dead at a Traveller wedding in Co Fermanagh last week.
McGinley (63) was gunned down in cold blood in Newtownbutler, and another man injured, as Matilda McGinley (17) married Jimmy O'Connor (16) from Saggart in Co Dublin last Wednesday.
Just before Matilda walked up the aisle a gunman using a crude home-made weapon shot the two men in the grounds outside.
'Small' Barney McGinley, originally from Athlone but who lived in Longford, was hit.
Another man was stabbed with a machete during the brutal attack in the border village.
McGinley died from his injuries in Enniskillen Hospital after being flown there in a PSNI helicopter.
The gunman has been on the run since, sparking fears of an all-out feud in the Travelling community.
A heavy garda presence could be seen in Athlone yesterday as family and friends from around the country and abroad gathered at a small funeral home on the banks of the river Shannon to pay their respects.
People driving into the town were met with squad cars stopping traffic and monitoring the occupants of cars and vans.
Members of the garda Regional Support Unit and the Emergency Response Unit also patrolled the Midlands' town.
The funeral home where McGinley's body lay in repose was directly on the riverfront at The Strand, and all the narrow streets leading to it from Church Street, Athlone's main thoroughfare, were blocked to traffic by gardai.
Officers also monitored everyone walking down to the funeral home.
On the river itself members of the Garda Water Unit patrolled the Shannon in a boat.
From 4pm a growing crowd started to gather, making their way quietly to pay their respects.
Some of the pubs on the main street remained open during the day, but many of the hotels in the town were operating a residents-only policy, and had security placed at doors.
As darkness fell some of the mourners crossed the river and requested a satellite van owned by RTE move from the area because they didn't want the funeral to be covered on the Nine O'Clock news.
It has been reported that last week's murder was in retaliation for another violent attack on two young men who were hacked with machetes, slash hooks and other weapons last year.
Both survived what amounted to a double murder attempt, but have suffered permanent injuries.
At Christmas, a series of threats were issued by men from both factions.
'Small' Barney McGinley was being blamed for instigating the attack on the two young men in the Midlands last year, reputed to be over an alleged €1,000 debt, sources said.
At 7pm McGinley's coffin was placed in a hearse and driven slowly towards St Mary's church in the town, followed slowly by mourners walking behind.
A man sang mournfully behind the hearse as it passed up the main street.
A few yards from the church the coffin was removed from the hearse and it was walked into the church.
A relative followed with a large framed photograph of McGinley.