The family of a young policewoman targeted in a dissident car bomb attack say they are disgusted and shocked by the incident — which her republican councillor uncle has refused to condemn.
A local SDLP councillor who knows the family of Karen Cole said that her parents told him they are very proud of their daughter and the work that she does for the PSNI.
Councillor Sean Rogers also said that the attack in Kilkeel was an attack on the whole community and should be condemned.
And he hit out at one of his council colleagues — an independent republican — who refused to condemn the attack on his own niece.
Army bomb experts were called to Fearon Close in Kilkeel on Saturday after a suspicious object was discovered near the home of the Catholic policewoman.
Police later confirmed that the object was a viable device which was made safe by Army Technical Officers.
It is understood that the device fell from a car belonging to Ms Cole — the niece of former Sinn Fein councillor Martin Connolly.
As bomb specialists examined the object, Mr Connolly declined to criticise those responsible.
“I'm not going to get into the politics of condemnation,” he said.
“It hasn't done any good in the past, nor will it do any good in the future.”
Mr Connolly left Sinn Fein in 2007 and is now an independent representative on Newry and Mourne District Council.
Councillor Rogers said: “I condemn without any reservation whatsoever the attack on this young policewoman who is serving her community.
“This was not just an attack on her, it was an attack on our whole community and if the device had gone off, it could have had devastating consequences.”
He said he could not understand the response of councillor Connolly.
“This incident deserves condemnation. He is entitled to his point of view, but I do not understand his reasoning,” he added.
“We have seen enough of this violence over the last 40 years. It is not the way forward.”
After speaking to Ms Cole’s parents, Mr Rogers said: “They told me that they are very proud of their daughter and the work she does.
“They also said that they are absolutely disgusted and shocked by what happened here on Saturday.
“And they are very heartened by the support they have received from the local community at such a difficult time.”
DUP South Down Assembly Member Jim Wells branded councillor Connolly's comments, made on BBC Radio Ulster, a disgrace.
“How could anyone refuse to condemn an attack on one of his own relatives?” Mr Wells said.
“I believe as a councillor he has to support a peaceful and normal democratic process. This could have been an absolute tragedy.”
A number of homes were evacuated during the security alert, which came just days after a car bomb exploded outside the Strand Road police station in Derry, causing extensive damage.
PSNI Superintendent Barbara Gray said the device in Kilkeel had been designed to cause death or injury.
“This was a focused and cowardly attack on the life of a police officer, an officer who works daily to protect her local community,” she said.
“This device was designed for one purpose — to kill and injure.”