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Sunday, May 17, 1998 Published at 05:50 GMT 06:50 UK

Man questioned over shootings
image: [ St Joseph's is cordoned off after the communion service shootings ]
St Joseph's is cordoned off after the communion service shootings

Police in Dublin are questioning a man following the shooting of a Sinn Fein councillor in a church in the Irish capital.

Larry O'Toole is recovering from what are said to be non life threatening wounds after being shot in the back as he attended a first communion service in St Joseph's Roman Catholic church, in the suburb of Ballymun.

The attack has provoked an angry reaction from the party's leadership.

Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, said the attack was "a very worrying development".

About 70 young children and hundreds of parents and relatives were attending the mass when the shooting took place.

The children ran screaming, but none were hurt as the gunman shot councillor O'Toole. He fired two more shots in the air as he ran out.

[ image: Gerry Adams:
Gerry Adams: "A very worrying development"
Adult worshippers chased the gunman outside, where Mr O'Toole's grown-up son was also hit.

In a statement, Mr Adams said Mr O'Toole had been attending the first communion ceremony of his grandson when he and his son were shot in church.

He said Mr O'Toole was a Sinn Fein representative in the north-east of Dublin and a prominent member of the local anti-drugs movement.

Mr Adams offered his support and sympathy to the family of the injured men.

Rival group

The incident comes at a time of simmering splits within Sinn Fein and its IRA allies.

Last weekend Sinn Fein activists overwhelmingly endorsed the strategy of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to accept the Good Friday Agreement.

But IRA members opposed to the outlawed group's July 1997 truce that made this strategy possible have broken away to form a rival command called "RIRA", or Real IRA. Most of the dissidents come from the Irish Republic.

Two weekends ago, this dissident group tried to rob a cash-filled armoured car south of Dublin, but instead police ambushed the gang, killing 28-year-old Ronan MacLoughlin, a senior IRA defector from Ballymun.

His funeral mass was held on May 7 at the same Ballymun church where Saturday's shootings occurred.

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