Mourners attending a funeral where a priest accidentally drove into the gathering crowd feared they were being targetted in a deliberate attack.
Two people were in a serious condition in hospital last night and another five remained under treatment for their injuries following the incident outside the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Clondalkin village, Dublin. At least six other people were treated for minor injuries at the church by a fleet of ambulances and emergency crews dispatched to the scene.
The accident happened at 10.20am as mourners attending the funeral of a popular local father of two gathered outside the church for the arrival of the hearse.
A priest from outside the parish who was there for the ceremony was negotiating a narrow passage connecting the grounds at the front and back of the church when he lost control of the car, struck two parked cars and hit a group of mourners standing nearby.
It is thought the priest may have taken ill at the wheel. His car, a small white Toyota, was kept at the scene for most of the day while Garda technical experts examined it before removing it for further tests.
Around 200 people were at the church, many attending the funeral and others going to the regular daily Mass and a Monday Club for retired people in the adjacent parish centre.
Some spoke afterwards of their shock at what they witnessed.
"The bang was so horrific, people thought it was a bomb,” said local woman, Maureen McNulty, who was just a few feet from the car as it went past.
A man attending the funeral said: “People thought it was a suicide attack at first. You would think that seeing what’s happened in other countries.”
The funeral was postponed for several hours before proceeding in the afternoon. A statement from local clergy said: “The priests and staff of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Clondalkin wish to express their sympathies to those people injured in an accident on the grounds of the church this morning.
"They are keeping all involved in their prayers at this difficult time.”