A former Sinn Fein councillor who refused to condemn an attempted car bomb attack on his PSNI niece was today branded “an eejit” by Gerry Adams.
Dissident republicans have been blamed for leaving the device — which was described as viable — at the officer’s home in Kilkeel at the weekend.
It is understood the device fell from a car belonging to the officer, the niece of former Sinn Fein councillor Martin Connolly.
Her toddler was already strapped in the car for an outing when the device was discovered on Saturday morning.
But while bomb specialists examined the object, Mr Connolly declined to criticise those responsible for leaving the device.
“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.
Mr Adams today said there was little support for his former colleague’s remarks.
“He’s just an eejit — there’s no other way to put it,” he said.
“Let him go forward at the next election. At the time when he left the party, it was on a bogus run against our position about policing, but the electorate will have their say on that in due course.”
SDLP councillor Sean Rogers, who knows the officer’s family, said her parents told him they were proud of their daughter and of the work she does.
He added: “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.”
He said he could not understand Mr Connolly’s response.
“This incident deserves condemnation. He is entitled to his point of view, but I do not understand his reasoning,” he added.
DUP MLA Jim Wells called Mr Connolly's comments a disgrace.
“How could anyone refuse to condemn an attack on one of his own relatives?” he said.
“I believe as a councillor he has to support a peaceful and normal democratic process. This could have been an absolute tragedy.”
Several homes were evacuated during the security alert, just days after a car bomb outside Strand Road police station in Londonderry caused extensive damage.
PSNI superintendent Barbara Gray said the Kilkeel device was 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.”
Meanwhile a security alert which led to businesses being evacuated in south Belfast was a deliberate hoax, police said today.
Army bomb experts carried out a controlled explosion on the object, found at Cadogan Park near Lisburn Road PSNI station last night.
Business premises were evacuated and a number of roads sealed off while the alert was dealt with.
The alert began around 9.30pm last night and continued until midnight.
A PSNI spokesman said the remains of an object, described as non-viable but which had been made to look like a device, had been recovered.
He said investigations into the incident are continuing.
SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt said the alert caused “significant disruption”.