Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Anger as Northern Ireland bomb squad deals with 700 security alerts in the last three years

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 30/12/2015

A PSNI bomb disposal unit after an alert in the Voltaire Gardens area of north Belfast last March
A PSNI bomb disposal unit after an alert in the Voltaire Gardens area of north Belfast last March
Forensics officers remove a bomb and mortar from Poleglass in Belfast in September

The bomb squad is called out every other day in Northern Ireland, with almost 700 security alerts in the past three years, it can be revealed.

Nearly two decades after the Good Friday Agreement, there is still an average of four bomb scares every week.

The vast majority are hoaxes, causing massive disruption costing millions of pounds.

Police figures show there have been 680 security alerts in the region since January 2013.

In the first 10 months of the year, 202 alerts were recorded - more than one every other day.

The figures were released by the PSNI after a Freedom of Information request by the Belfast Telegraph.

Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said they suggested Northern Ireland had not left the past behind.

"Each of these alerts causes major disruption and gives the perception to the wider world that we still have huge problems," she added.

The Police Federation, the body which represents PSNI officers, branded the figures "disgraceful".

Experts dealt with 151 viable devices between January 2013 and October this year.

Over a third (60) were in the Belfast area. A further 34 were in the Derry and Strabane region.

There were a further 529 hoax alerts across Northern Ireland in the same period.

Again, most were in Belfast and the north-west.

Each incident may involve more than one device. They do not include petrol bombs or incendiaries.

The breakdown by policing area also shows:

Six viable devices and 15 hoax alerts in Lisburn and Castlereagh

Two viable devices and nine hoaxes in Ards and North Down

Nine viable devices and 41 hoax alerts in Newry, Mourne and Down

Eight viable devices and 83 hoax alerts in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon

One viable device and 25 hoax alerts in Mid-Ulster

Two viable devices and 23 hoax alerts in Fermanagh and Omagh

Six viable devices and 17 hoax alerts in Causeway Coast and Glens

Eight viable devices and 25 hoax alerts in Mid and East Antrim

15 viable devices and 43 hoaxes in Antrim and Newtownabbey.

Mrs Kelly said security alerts had caused serious disruption in her hometown of Lurgan.

"Every one of these causes major disruption and costs a lot of money," she added.

"It is also a drain on police resources, which could be much better used.

"Unfortunately every one has to be taken seriously because a number of devices have been found to be viable."

Mrs Kelly also told how she was shocked by the high number of security alerts.

"It is a quite shocking figure - more than one every other day of the year," she added.

"Those responsible - whether it is dissidents or whoever - need to think about the impact these have on their communities. It is an evil thing to do."

The PSNI said that dealing with alerts and keeping people safe used up a huge amount of resources.

A spokesman for the force added: "Security alerts often cause a great deal of disruption to the community and divert police resources away from the incidents and crimes which affect people in a local area.

"These alerts cause massive inconvenience for the communities where they happen.

"Scores of local people - many of them elderly or families with young children - have to leave their homes, sometimes late at night or in the early hours of the morning, leaving their beds to take shelter in local leisure and community centres."

Police said that while they understood the disruption security alerts cause, the safety of the community and officers must come first.

The PSNI added: "In the case of viable devices, they are not just attacks on the intended target. They place the lives of every man, woman and child in the area at risk.

"Those responsible are totally reckless in their disregard for their neighbours and for people living in the area where they occur.

"They show no regard for the lives of anyone, be it police officers or local people."

The Police Federation also criticised the chaos caused by bomb scares.

A spokesperson said: "This level of disruption is disgraceful. Scarce resources are being diverted to deal with this menace, which means that the everyday work of policing has to take a back seat for a time.

"Thankfully, most alerts are hoaxes but officers cannot afford to take any chances.

"The individuals who are doing this must realise that they are hurting people who want to get on with their lives and not have to endure hours of upset and disruption."

Last month, a security alert sparked three days of chaos near the Co Londonderry village of Drumsurn.

A controlled explosion was carried out on what police said was a "viable explosive device".

Dissident republican group Oglaigh na hEireann later claimed responsibility for the device and said it had been there for five weeks.

Magilligan Army camp is just a few miles away, and military personnel had been on foot in the area.

60

Over a third of bombs discovered this year were in the Belfast area

529

The number of hoax alerts recorded by the police this year

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph