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Strabane pubs 'on lockdown' as police seize weapons after fight at funeral

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Police outside the church in Strabane

Police outside the church in Strabane

Mourners are evacuated from the church

Mourners are evacuated from the church

Some of the weapons seized by police

Some of the weapons seized by police

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Police outside the church in Strabane

The Co Tyrone town of Strabane was on high alert yesterday, with its pubs and clubs on lockdown following a disturbance at a funeral.

One man was injured, three men were arrested and a quantity of weapons was found after disturbances at the 10am Requiem Mass for Brian McDonagh in St Mary's Church on the Melmount Road.

The 25-year-old man, a member of the travelling community, died suddenly in England earlier this month.

Last night police uncovered 12 hatchets, three large knives, 11 stanley knives, two screwdrivers and three bottles of ammonia during searches.

There was pandemonium in the church when a scuffle broke out during the funeral Mass.

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Mourners are evacuated from the church

Mourners are evacuated from the church

Mourners are evacuated from the church

Mourners were heard screaming and seen scrambling to safety across the altar after hearing what sounded like gunfire, but turned out to be a pew collapsing, during the melee.

Police who had earlier seized weapons such as stanley knives and hatchets mounted a major security operation outside the church. Up to 20 Land Rovers were in position in the church grounds.

The funeral Mass was able to go ahead, as was the burial.

Strabane independent councillor Raymond Barr said the town was on "lockdown" ahead of the discovery of the weapons and the trouble at the service.

"There was a skirmish at the funeral," he added. "There were reports that shots were fired, but we have since discovered that that was the sound of a chair collapsing.

"It seems that there was a disagreement between two families inside the church and a fight broke out. One man was injured, but just superficially.

"There was a heavy police presence around the town and around the church and that seemed to pay off.

"There were around 400 people at the service, but they have largely left the area now.

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Some of the weapons seized by police

Some of the weapons seized by police

Some of the weapons seized by police

"On Wednesday night we were told there was a substantial number of weapons found near the church and on the basis of that we, the vintners, decided we would close the pubs early.

"This is a similar action to what we took several years ago during another large funeral.

"There were more weapons found on Thursday, so I think the action we took was responsible. The town was on lockdown last night, not just the pubs, but the clubs, taxi ranks and fast food outlets also. At the end of the day, we have a duty of care to our staff and customers."

Mr Barr said that the town continued to be on high alert, with most of the bars having shut their doors and "playing it by ear".

"The town is still on semi-lockdown," he said. "It's not good for the town, it's not good for the image of the town. We hoped it could be avoided."

Police have called on those with influence to help ease tensions.

District Commander Chief Superintendent Emma Bond said: "A significant proactive policing operation was in place this morning in the Melmount Road area to prevent disorder and keep people safe.

"A disturbance did break out within the church. However, it was quickly addressed.

"A number of dangerous weapons were seized and we are thankful to have been able to remove these items from the streets.

"We are aware of tensions between individuals who were in attendance at the funeral and I am appealing to anyone with influence to help bring about a calm resolution to the current issues."

Three males aged 17, 22 and 32 were arrested and remain in police custody.

Belfast Telegraph


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