Outrage after dissident bomb is left at school gates in bid to murder police
Police believe that dissident republicans left a "very significant" bomb at the gates of a north Belfast school in an attempt to kill PSNI officers.
Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said police believed the device, which was discovered by officers at Holy Cross Boys' Primary at Brookfield Street in Ardoyne, was aimed at "police officers on foot patrol".
However, he added that the "sizeable" bomb was also "anti-community" as it "would have killed anybody in the immediate area" had it been detonated.
Residents including families with young children, the elderly, and some sick and disabled people were evacuated from their homes during the security alert in the early hours of yesterday.
A number of controlled explosions were carried out on the device.
It was then removed for forensic analysis.
"It was a very significant device that was more than capable of causing death and serious injury," said Mr Noble.
"Most poignantly and most importantly to the local community in that area is the fact that it was right at the gates of Holy Cross Boys' Primary School.
"There's no doubt that device was there to try to kill community police officers on the beat in that area.
"But also it was left in such a reckless manner and in such a reckless location that it would undoubtedly have led to the death or serious injury of a member of the public had it exploded anywhere near them."
The senior officer said pupils were due to return to the school today after the Easter holidays, but could have been in the area on Saturday evening as well.
"So a young person, a child, could have picked that up and, if it exploded, it would have been beyond life-changing - it would have been life-ending for that young person," he added.
"So I don't know who these people are but they clearly don't care about young people in that community."
Mr Noble said he believed police had discovered the device "quickly", but admitted that the PSNI "just don't know how long it was there, and indeed how many people potentially even walked past it".
Holy Cross Boys' vice principal Chris Donnelly said that planting the bomb at the school gates was "shocking and showed a callous disregard for people".
"Thankfully this was discovered, but 24 hours later kids would have been coming in to school," he said. "We have 440 boys here. Where it was situated is a walkway and a lot of people walk past there.
"It is also situated about 10 metres or less away from the nearest row of houses.
"The evacuation inconvenienced residents, and a lot of children live very close to the school.
"It's not anything that we want kids to have on their mind, that there was a bomb at the gates."
Secretary of State James Brokenshire said he was "sickened" by the incident.
He slammed the dissident republicans believed to have planted the bomb.
"This shows their wanton disregard for human life, potentially putting children in danger," he said.
"The consequences could have been utterly devastating and it shows them for what they really are.
"I am grateful to the emergency services for their work in keeping people safe."
Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said: "The people who did this wanted to murder or maim officers.
"They didn't care if passers-by or children out playing in the area were caught up in an explosion. It was an entirely reckless act.
"This appears to have been a deadly, anti-personnel-type weapon. The local community, indeed Northern Ireland as a whole, want to be rid of these terrorists, who are holding back communities and creating misery for the many."
North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said those who planted the device "clearly have no regard for any human life" and that it "serves as a reminder once more for the entire community to unite in support of the forces of law and order in our country".
North Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly also condemned those behind the bomb.
"This was a device left in a built-up residential area which was designed to kill. I condemn it outright," he said.
Local SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said the device was "a chilling reminder that some people remain willing to murder and maim in our community".
Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister said those behind the bomb "do not represent the vast majority of the local community".