A feud over an arranged marriage may have been behind a man being stabbed to death and his wife injured as they attended a funeral in Kerry.
Thomas Dooley, a member of the Traveller community from Hazlewood Drive, Ballyspillane in Killarney, suffered fatal stab wounds when he was attacked in Rathass cemetery in Tralee on Wednesday morning. He and his wife, Siobhan had been attending the funeral of mother-of-five, Bridget O’Brien, from Killarney, who died suddenly on Sunday.
There was a large crowd of mourners in the cemetery when the attack happened shortly after 11am.
It is understood that a group of people arrived at the cemetery armed with what’s believed to have been slash hooks and a machete.
Gardaí and emergency services were called to the cemetery following reports of an altercation involving a group of people.
They said they found a man in his 40s with serious injuries.
Mr Dooley was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance personnel. His body was taken to University Hospital Kerry, which is located just across the road.
Ms Dooley, also in her 40s, was also taken to the same hospital where she was being treated last night for non-life-threatening injuries.
The scene was sealed off by members of the Kerry Divisional Scenes of Crime Unit for a full technical examination.
The results of a postmortem will determine the course of the garda investigation, but all the resources of a murder probe have been dedicated to the investigation so far.
Investigating gardaí said they are trying to establish a motive for the attack and they appealed for witnesses to come forward and for any person with camera footage to make it available to them.
It is understood that one avenue of enquiry is that the attack was motivated because of a personal grievance centred on a perceived snub or disrespect.
It is believed the man may have been involved in talks between two family groups over a proposed marriage, and that the talks ended without agreement.
A garda source said: “The primary focus is to arrest the person behind this attack, which appears to be linked to an ongoing feud, but there are wider concerns then — to stab people at a funeral is a terrible worsening of that feud and there are significant security concerns that this will escalate.
“Gardai are aware of who is involved in the feud – in terms of the families and the individuals — but it is a question of whether witnesses to the attack will come forward and speak up.”
Traveller advocate, Martin Collins, of Pavee Point, described the fatal stabbing as a "senseless act".
“It’s just shocking — a young man dying so tragically and in that setting, a cemetery," he said.
He also appealed for calm amid fears of reprisals.
“I would urge leaders and those with influence in the affected families to use that influence in a positive way to diffuse and de-escalate the situation to prevent any further injury or loss of life,” he said.
“Whatever disputes or disagreements may be there, there are processes to resolve those, for example through the courts or through mediation.”
A number of men were arrested for questioning several hours later about unrelated matters when the car in which they were travelling was stopped by gardaí on the western outskirts of Cork City.
The men, who it is believed had attended the funeral earlier, were later released without charge.