Belfast Telegraph

Parents enraged as school is caught up in hoax bomb alert

By Lesley Houston and Donna Deeney

Panic-stricken parents have told of their disgust after children were caught up in a hoax bomb alert at a west Belfast primary school.

Staff at Christ the Redeemer at Lagmore Drive had to usher 600 pupils from the rear of the school after police warned a device had been discovered.

Some reports suggested it had been found attached to railings at the front of the school grounds. It was later declared a hoax.

Lagmore Drive and surrounding streets were sealed off, causing traffic gridlock. Witnesses spoke of seeing police running into the school to alert staff.

"A policeman ran up to the front door and within about 30 seconds the kids were coming out the back door of the school, out to the church hall next to the church," said one witness.

Parents first on the scene were clearly panicked, with some abandoning their cars in the middle of the road, blocking bomb squad vehicles as they arrived. Most of the children were happy to have a day off school, but some of the youngest were said to have been upset by the evacuation.

Speaking during the alert, parish priest Father Peter O'Kane described the situation as "crazy".

"It's crazy for everybody. It inconveniences the lives of everybody - the parents rushing out of work to come back to the school. It's bringing people back to former days we thought we'd left behind," he said.

Unsure at the time whether the suspicious device presented a real threat, he added: "Of course you can't take chances when there are children involved, with something being found on school railings."

West Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann condemned those behind the alert. "This is absolutely disgraceful, whoever was behind this," said the Sinn Fein representative.

Referring to a weekend of security alerts across Northern Ireland, she said she was unsure if they were linked. "The community has let these people know time and time again that we don't want this kind of thing," she added.

"They just want to get on with their lives and to work and be able to leave their kids to school without this type of thing happening."

Lynsey Carlisle, who returned to the school along with her young son to collect eight-year-old Aiobheen, revealed none of them were able to return home as their house was located within the sealed-off area.

Michelle Varndeel was angered by the incident. "It's disgraceful in this day and age. It's absolutely horrible," she said. "I grew up in the heart of Ardoyne and you just want better for your kids."

Debbie Byrne said she'd lived through the Troubles and wanted to leave the dark days behind.

"I'd just got to work and I got a text. But it's a good school and I knew the children would be well looked after," she said.

"It's disgraceful," agreed Rachel Devlin, collecting her P2 child.

"It's upsetting for everyone and for what? What are they getting out of it?"

Meanwhile, a bomb was found in the driveway of a house in Londonderry.

The device, which was discovered on Sunday evening at a house in Gelvin Gardens in the Waterside area of the city, is being examined by forensics officers.

Police are trying to establish a motive for the bomb being left at the house.

Residents evacuated from their homes for several hours are angry that their lives were put in danger.

One woman who was among the 20 families forced to flee said: "The more I think about it, the more angry I feel.

"There are wee ones out in the street playing, including my own, they could have picked this bomb up and been blown to smithereens."

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