Belfast Telegraph

I’ve no malice or hatred for the men who tried to bomb us

Police officer’s brave mother speaks for first time about the deadly attacks on her home and family by dissident republicans in Derry

By Donna Deeney

The mother of a serving police officer has revealed she prays every day for the dissident republicans who have twice tried to kill her and her family.

Last week as the family were relaxing in front of the television, faceless men sneaked into Drumleck Drive in the Shantallow area of Londonderry and left a large pipe bomb designed to cause death or serious injury.

It was the second such attack on the Catholic family in a bid to reach their son as he serves the community in the PSNI.

His sister was also targeted by the bombers on the same day as the previous attack on the family, when a bomb exploded at their home. The device at her home was dealt with by Army bomb experts.

The officer's mother spoke exclusively about her fears for her son and her determination to stay in the area where she has lived for 41 years.

Asking to remain anonymous, she said: “The first time anything happens is the scariest, but we have been under threat for so long now, in a way you become accustomed to it.

“I said last week and it's what I always say, ‘so long as no one has been hurt that's the main thing’. There was a sense of deja vu about this latest attack and in the days since I have to say I have been just exhausted and it has taken me until now to get back to myself, but we have drawn so much comfort from the amount of support we have been shown.

“Even the first time we were attacked, and that time there was an explosion, I took comfort in the fact that no one was hurt.

“It is amazing how you get strength when you have to deal with things like this.

“I remember ringing the police that first time and I told them who I was and said ‘a bomb has exploded but there's no hurry on you, no one has been hurt’, and I got back into my bed.

“Now I realise that I was most likely in shock but I am normally able to take things in my stride.

“They (the police) did everything possible to help us when we were attacked both times, and I know all I have to do is pick up the phone if there was even a slightest cause for concern, which is all we can ask.

“The three churchmen who called to the house were also a great comfort. We were very surprised by the visit and it meant so much to us.

“I think it is like everything in life, if you are in any kind of difficulty it makes it better to know there are people who care about what you are going through but we try not to let this kind of thing dominate our lives.”

A degree of normality is returning to the woman’s life.

She was ironing as she awaited her grandchildren calling in on their way home from school, an indication that the family have no intention of allowing dissident republicans to dictate where or how they will live.

She added: “I don't think too much about the people who are doing this to us, but I do pray for them every single day which some people might find strange.

“I have no malice or hatred towards them.

“It's not the way I was brought up nor is it the way we brought our family up.

“My son is obviously worried about us but there is no point in getting bogged down.

“In fact the police are doing everything they can for us. All the political parties and the PSNI are working towards making things better for everyone living here.

“That's the way it should be.”

Terror gangs behind series of shootings and bombings determined to shatter peace

Dissident republicans have maintained a constant level of threat throughout Northern Ireland, making their presence felt through bomb and gun attacks directed particularly at members of the security forces and their families.

Earlier this month, at an Easter Rising commemoration in Londonderry, a masked man read a statement from “the leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann” reiterating that attacks on “Crown force personnel and their installations as well as British interests and infrastructure” would continue.

While Oglaigh na hEireann and the Real IRA have carried out atrocities all over Northern Ireland they have been

particularly active in Derry.

No organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack on the home of a serving PSNI officer's parents home on April 15.

The previous attacks on this family were claimed by the Real IRA.

This same organisation was responsible for placing a bomb inside the car of a Scottish soldier outside his girlfriend's house in the Ligoniel area of north Belfast in January this year.

The Real IRA also said it carried out two attacks in Co Londonderry in September 2011.

A controlled explosion was carried out on a bomb found at the Claudy home of Dr Keith Munro (right), a retired GP who did some work as a forensic medical officer for the PSNI.

Hours earlier a pipe bomb was thrown at the rural home of a serving police officer's parents 10 miles away in Every Road, Eglinton.

While no one was hurt in any of these attacks, a dissident republican organisation murdered Constable Ronan Kerr in a car bomb outside his home on April 2, 2011 in Killyclogher near Omagh.

Attacks on buildings deemed by the dissidents to represent a British presence here have been widespread but once again more prolific in Derry.

Police in the city believe dissident republicans were responsible for two bomb attacks on 19 January, this year.

The bombs exploded at the tourist centre on Foyle Street and on Strand Road, close to the DHSS office, within 10 minutes of each other.

The offices of the Culture Company set up after Derry won the title to become the UK's first City of Culture has been targeted on more than one occasion by dissidents.

The latest attack was in October last year when a pipe bomb was placed outside the office, mirroring a similar attack carried out in January 2011.

The Real IRA have also bombed two banks in the city, the Ulster Bank in the Culmore Road and the Santander bank in the Diamond, right in the heart of the city centre.

Families under daily threat from those intent on reliving the past

Catholics who work for the police — either as officers or in a civilian capacity — live their lives on a daily basis with the threat against them from dissident republicans.

They are well versed in how to deal as best they can with the reality that they are a target for any one of the several organisations that have not signed up to the peace process.

The threat they live with has also been extended to the family members of those security force employees — as the events of last week demonstrated.

The elderly parents of the Catholic police officer — along with more than 50 of their neighbours — were for the second time forced to evacuate their home while Army technical officers dealt with a device which had been left outside their Drumleck Drive residence in Londonderry.

The device left outside the house in the nationalist Shantallow area has been described as a “sizeable” pipe bomb which had the capacity to kill if it had exploded.

This is not the first time this officer’s family have come under attack.

In September 2009 a similar device exploded outside his parents’ house, although no one was injured.

On the same day a viable device — also a pipe bomb — was made safe at his sister's home in a separate incident.

Police in Londonderry said there is no doubt last week's attack was the work of dissident republicans and while no specific organisation has claimed responsibility, the Real IRA said they carried out both attacks in 2009.

Protecting police personnel and their families remains a priority for the PSNI and specialist equipment, training and advice is regularly monitored and updated said Stephen Martin, commander of G District which covers the north west.

Chief Superintendent Martin added: “The police have supported this family since 2009 and will continue to support them in every appropriate way we can now and in the future.

“We very much admire the resolve of our officer's parents not to be intimidated and appreciate the support and friendship they are receiving from their neighbours and the community at large.

“Like them, we are proud of the service their son — our colleague — provides to the community as a professional and committed police officer.

“The good he does stands in stark contrast to the evil intentions of those who targeted his parents in such a cowardly way.

“Unfortunately, this kind of threat remains severe in Northern Ireland.

“There are those still seeking to murder police officers and destabilise the peace we all cherish.

“Those small, anti-peace republican groups act against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of people in Derry and indeed Northern Ireland.”

The sentiments expressed by the PSNI commander have been echoed throughout Northern Ireland and across the political and religious spectrum.

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