Anti-drugs campaigner shot in Dublin church

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HUNDREDS of children and their families yesterday fled in terror as shots were fired in a Dublin church service, injuring the prominent Sinn Fein member, Larry O'Toole, writes Alan Murdoch.

Eyewitnesses said a small man wearing glasses and a peaked cap walked into St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Ballymun, north Dublin, during a first communion service for local children, also attended by 300 relatives. Some 70 youngsters, aged between seven and eight, were in the church and many of the children, the girls in white communion dresses and the boys in suits, burst into tears.

The man shouted at Mr O'Toole, "You're dead", and shot him in the back with a hand gun. In the chaos that ensued, the man fled the church, firing two shots in the air, pursued by several men. Outside, the gunman shot and wounded one of Mr O'Toole's sons, a man in his 30s.

Gardai arrived soon after and a man was arrested nearby.Gardai declined to speculate about the motive for the shooting of Mr O'Toole, a member of Dublin Corporation, but sources indicated that the gunman may have been a drug dealer.

Dublin Sinn Fein members have been prominently involved in campaigns against drug-dealing in the city. Councillor O'Toole came to prominence as the leader of a protracted strike in a north Dublin bakery in the 1980s.