Parent brands culprits behind Northern Ireland school bomb alerts 'cowards'
A father of three boys at Bloomfield Primary School in Bangor had been looking forward to picking his sons up for a swimming lesson.
Instead, he was outraged to learn they were forced to flee a bomb threat at their school.
David Baker (45) told the Belfast Telegraph the people responsible for the threats were "disgusting cowards" and that he would not be put off bringing his children back to school today.
He was among hundreds of horrified parents across Northern Ireland yesterday morning, with seven primary schools receiving bomb warnings.
Police have not released a full list of the schools but its understood they include Linn Primary School in Larne, Leadhill Primary School in Castlereagh and Ballysally Primary School in Coleraine. Another primary school in Limerick was also evacuated after a similar threat yesterday morning.
The PSNI say they do not believe the incidents are terrorism-related at this stage and are investigating links to other school threats in England and Scotland on Monday.
Shortly after 9am yesterday, staff at Bloomfield Primary said they evacuated pupils from primary and nursery units after receiving a "malicious communication".
The pupils were taken to a nearby church hall with parents informed by text shortly afterwards. Early reports had suggested a gas leak was to blame.
Mr Baker has twin boys in primary five at Bloomfield, one of whom has hearing and sight problems, with his youngest son in primary one.
"From what we've been told and read, we heard there was an automated phone call saying bomb, bomb, bomb," he said.
"When we picked the children up we were told exactly what it was, what had happened. The teacher looked a bit shaken up at the time, obviously.
"But all the children were happy. There was a lot of talk of parents not taking their children to school tomorrow. I have three children who love school, so they'll be in school tomorrow as normal."
Addressing those responsible he said: "They're cowards aren't they? It's as simple as that.
"To inflict pain on anybody is horrible but to purposefully go after innocent little children who are learning, and the teachers, it's disgusting."
Speaking at the empty school yesterday afternoon, Bloomfield Primary principal, Rebecca Dowie, said she expected lessons to resume as normal today.
"Obviously no school wants to go through any sort of evacuation procedure, but we take the safety of our pupils very seriously," she said. "It was very disruptive but I would like to commend the staff and all the pupils for how calm and well behaved the children were." Local resident and former Bloomfield pupil Elaine Heyburn (45), was passing the school yesterday afternoon. "It's uncalled for, somebody should come forward and take responsibility and say who has made the threat," she said.
DUP MLA Peter Weir is a governor at Bloomfield Primary. He praised the "cool and courageous" actions of teachers across Northern Ireland at a time that was "extremely traumatising" for the young children and parents.
"It is beyond comprehension as to what sort of mindset targets young primary school children for this sort of violent threat," he said.
"They must be condemned utterly and the culprits brought to justice, to prevent this happening again." SDLP justice spokesman Alex Attwood said: "To threaten children and staff in this way is utterly reprehensible.
"Any and all threats must be taken seriously and the PSNI will work with their colleagues in the South and in Britain as they pursue those responsible."
In Coleraine, Ballysally Primary School principal, Geoff Dunne, said his pupils were a "credit" to themselves and their families in how they acted during a "calm evacuation".
He said: "It's very frustrating when we are trying to meet the needs of children and this comes in."
Father-of-three Shaun Sharkey said he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw his three children among hundreds walking past his window.
"I saw the whole school with their teachers walking past the house," he said. "I saw my children among them and asked what was going on. I thought it was a day trip out. Then I saw the police cars at the school and the whole school was being evacuated."
He added: "I was very pleased at how the school handled it, and for the fact that they got the children out safely and then rang the parents afterwards.
"I would like to thank the school for that, it was a good job."