Pubdate: Sun, 17 May 1998 Source: Sunday Times (UK) Contact: John McManus DRUGS LINK TO CHURCH SHOOTINGS GARDAI confirmed last night that they believe the shooting of a former Sinn Fein election candidate and his son during a first holy communion service in north Dublin was drugs-related. Larry O'Toole, who is a prominent anti-drugs activist in the Ballymun area, and his son, also named Larry, were being treated for their injuries at the Mater hospital last night. They were said to be in a stable condition. The attacker, believed to be a local drug dealer, was said to have suffered a fractured skull after being set upon by a crowd following the shooting. He is being treated in Beaumont hospital. O'Toole's son was shot as he chased the gunman out of the church. O'Toole was shot in the back and his son wounded in the chest. They are not thought to be seriously injured. The gunman, who was in his early thirties, and believed to be originally from Belfast, walked into St Joseph's Church where hundreds of people were gathered and singled out O'Toole. He shouted "You're dead" before opening fire. He then fired two shots in the air before running out of the church chased by O'Toole's son and other members of the congregation. The gunman shot O'Toole's son before fleeing into the nearby Cromleach Court housing development where he was set upon by his pursuers. Gardai were at the scene within minutes. Two community officers from Ballymun garda station, Garda Joe Everard and Garda Jack Kildea, were in the vicinity of the church and arrested the gunman. He was taken to Santry G garda station and later taken to Beaumont hospital, where he was treated for head injuries. About 70 children, aged seven and eight, were in the church for their first communion. Among them was O'Toole's granddaughter, Laura. There was panic when the shooting started, said Father Noel Kerins. Local curate Father Kevin McDonagh, who rushed to the scene, said: "Everyone was shocked. Children were screaming and crying." He said that the gunman had "acted with great haste, speed and was very focused". Chief Superintendent Jim Murphy said the shooting seemed to be drug-related. "At the moment we do not believe that it was anything more sinister," he said. Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, said the shooting of O'Toole, was a very worrying development. He described O'Toole as a community activist and prominent member of the Darndale anti-drugs movement. His son lives in the Balcurris area and, according to locals, had a altercation with the gunman last week. O'Toole stood for Sinn Fein in Dublin in the European elections of 1994 and was a dail candidate in the last general election. He first came to prominence as a trade union official when he successfuly challenged, in the Supreme Court, RTE's refusal to interview him about a strike at the Gateau factory in 1990. Members of Sinn Fein were then banned from the airwaves. Gardai believe Sinn Fein and the IRA are behind many anti-drug vigilante groups who hound dealers from their homes. The tactics are often electorally popular for Sinn Fein candidates, such as O'Toole, in working-class areas devastated by heroin addiction. - --- Checked-by: "Rolf Ernst"