The discovery of a viable pipe- bomb has disrupted the high school formal of dozens of young people and placed hundreds of lives at risk, according to police and politicians.
Pupils from neighbouring Boys' and Girls' Model schools in west Belfast, who last night were supposed to be celebrating one of their most memorable school social occasions, were caught up in a security alert after a device was discovered in the Forthriver area of the city.
A number of residents had to be evacuated from the Glencairn estate after police were alerted to the device near a block of flats by a member of the public.
It is understood the location of the bomb was also close to a local primary school.
DUP Councillor Naomi Thompson condemned those responsible for the device and said children could have been killed or injured.
Police confirmed the object had been a viable pipe-bomb device which forced them to seal off a number of roads from 4.30pm until just after 8pm. It was later taken away for forensic examination.
Mrs Thompson, who represents the Shankill area, said: "It is outrageous that this viable pipe-bomb was left in a residential area.
"Whatever purpose they had, those responsible for this device put many members of the public at risk through their reckless actions.
"It is beyond comprehension that they could leave a deadly device like this in a public area. Had it exploded it could have caused serious injury or worse."
She said the fact that the device was found near a primary school "will only increase the sense of anger and outrage" at the culprits.
She added: "Forthriver Road, which is the only road in and out of the estate, was closed to both vehicles and pedestrians for over three and a half hours."
Praising local churches, Belfast city council and the Belfast Health Trust for providing shelter to those forced to flee their homes, she said: "Those responsible must be brought to justice for their callous and reckless actions.
"I would appeal to anyone who has any knowledge which could assist the police investigation to pass that information on to the PSNI on 0845 600 8000 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."