Fury as dissident councillor 'justifies' Everglades Hotel lobby bomb
Published 31/05/2014 | 11:15
A dissident republican councillor has sparked fury after suggesting the PSNI should not have used a Londonderry hotel targeted by bombers to host a recruitment event.
Newly elected Gary Donnelly refused to condemn those behind Thursday night's firebomb which caused extensive damage to the Everglades Hotel on the Waterside.
Speaking after a suspected dissident republican terrorist walked in to the hotel's lobby and left the bomb, the independent councillor with dissident links sparked anger when he said: "There is an onus on the people who planted this device to ensure that civilians are not injured but equally there is an onus on the PSNI to be aware of where they conduct their recruiting and propaganda. But everyone must ensure that the safety of civilians is paramount."
It is believed the Everglades was attacked in an effort to deter Catholics from attending a police recruitment drive at the hotel in coming days.
The prestigious hotel was previously used by the PSNI as an information day for people, particularly Catholics, considering a career with the police.
A second similar event has been scheduled in early June but it is not clear if this will now go ahead.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said Mr Donnelly needed to be "very very clear about his attitude to violence".
"People will be wanting to establish what his attitude is to violence because each councillor has to sign up to a code of conduct. We need to be clear about his and everyone else's attitude to attempted murder which was what this attack was," said the DUP man.
The Everglades, part of the Hastings Hotels group, was extensively damaged.
Shortly after 11pm, staff at the hotel were stunned when a lone masked man wearing a hooded top and claiming to be from the IRA came into the reception foyer. He left a holdall, shouting that people had 40 minutes to get out. Residents from 30 rooms were evacuated and emergency services were called.
An Army bomb disposal squad was in the middle of an operation to make the device safe when it exploded, sending a fireball through the building. Nearly 50 firefighters managed to bring the blaze under control with damage contained to the reception area.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned the attack.
"Derry is a place looking to the future and those promoting and building the changing city will not be held back by those living in the past," he said.
"Those behind this attack have nothing to offer and should end their futile actions now." Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin said police were keeping an open mind on the motive but confirmed the recent PSNI recruitment day was one possibility.
Branding those responsible "cowards", he said: "We could have been dealing with mass casualties and that is not something I would even want to think about. We will keep an open mind but the PSNI is offering job opportunities to people in this city.
"The hotel did a great job in evacuating the building. They have no doubt saved lives."
He said the bomber got into a red Volkswagen car which was burnt out in the Glendara area.