Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 20 November 2014

Alert clears Derry city centre again

Second Derry evacuation in week was elaborate hoax

Londonderry city centre was placed under lockdown for the second time in a week with hundreds evacuated after the discovery of a suspicious device.

Army Technical Officers and police helicopters were yesterday tasked to the car park at Bishop Street — where they carried out one controlled explosion — as the courthouse and dozens of neighbouring offices, shops and pubs were shut down.

Police later declared the device “an elaborate hoax”.

Children attending family court were among those who had to flee following the discovery.

Opera Northern Ireland also had to scrap plans to hold the opening act of their three-part Tosca performance in St Columb’s Cathedral yesterday afternoon.

Catholic and Protestant children were rehearsing together on Sunday for the weekend performances when they were forced to run from the cathedral.

A woman trying to park her car found the device in the same car park where dissident group Oglaigh na hEireann planted a 110lbs bomb in a beer keg inside a stolen vehicle on Sunday night last.

The earlier incident shut down the upper city centre throughout Monday. Yesterday’s evacuation, however, involved a much larger

operation as businesses and organisations were open at the time of the alert.

The 44 elderly residents of nearby Alexander House care home were moved to the back of the building yesterday afternoon, with staff put on stand-by in case of an evacuation being effected.

The alert continued throughout the day, with police declaring the object “an elaborate hoax” at around 5pm. The area remained closed while further checks took place.

Superintendent Sam Donaldson thanked the local community for their “patience and support”. He appealed for anybody with information to contact police at Strand Road station.

The constituency office of SDLP MP Mark Durkan was among the premises evacuated.

Mr Durkan said: “There is no justification whatsoever for this activity, there never was and there never will be. It simply causes fear, distress and harm to our community.”

Mayor of Derry Colum Eastwood said: “This is totally and utterly indefensible. The people of this area have had to put up with too much already this week and for this to happen a second time is inexcusable.”

Mr Eastwood added: “Those responsible have simply nothing positive to offer but disruption. Their actions aren’t freeing Ireland, but causing obstacles.”

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