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Theresa Villiers joins N Ireland leaders condemning bomb attack on prison guard

Published 04/03/2016

A bomb disposal unit officer at the scene following a suspected car bomb attack on a prison officer at Hillsborough Drive on March 4, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
A bomb disposal unit officer at the scene following a suspected car bomb attack on a prison officer at Hillsborough Drive on March 4, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
A bomb disposal unit officer inspects the damaged van following a suspected car bomb attack on a prison officer at Hillsborough Drive on March 4, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
The scene at the top of Hillsborough Drive off the Woodstock Road in east Belfast where a device exploded under a van resulting in one man being hospitalised. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
A man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
A man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast.
Picture credit © Matt Mackey - Presseye.com Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th March 2016 The scene where a man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast. It happened around the Woodstock Road at about 07:10 GMT on Friday.
A man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast.
The scene where a man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast. It happened around the Woodstock Road at about 07:10 GMT on Friday.
The scene where a man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast. It happened around the Woodstock Road at about 07:10 GMT on Friday.
A man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
A man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast.
The van at the scene of the car bomb in East Belfast
The scene where a man, believed to be a prison officer, has been taken to hospital after a device exploded under a van in east Belfast. It happened around the Woodstock Road at about 07:10 GMT on Friday.
Police seal off a large area after a device exploded under a car in east Belfast, leaving a man injured.
Police seal off a large area after a device exploded under a car in east Belfast, leaving a man injured. Pic Lesley-Anne McKeown/PA Wire

Community and church leaders from across Northern Ireland's sectarian divide have united in condemnation of a bomb attack on a prison guard.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers described the murder bid as vicious and appalling. Ms Villiers said: "Like all his colleagues in the prison service, this officer serves the whole of the community, in stark contrast to the people who carried out this appalling and violent crime."

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, the region's First and Deputy First Ministers used social media to denounce the perpetrators before issuing a joint statement in which they described it as "despicable and shocking" attack.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with this senior prison officer and his family as he is treated for his injuries in hospital," the ministers said.

"We join all right-thinking people in condemning these cowardly actions. As a prison officer, he is someone who serves and protects our community and we are united in our rejection of this attack.

"Prison service workers have our full support as they play their part in building a peaceful society. The perpetrators offer nothing but hatred and fear."

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has also expressed concern at what he called a callous and cowardly incident.

Northern Ireland's Justice Minister David Ford said the people who planted the bomb had shown no regard for life.

"These devices do not discriminate when they cause injury or death.

"Those involved in carrying out this misguided attack and those who planned it should see the futility of their actions. They go against the democratic principles that the vast majority of people in this society support.

"My sympathy goes to this officer, his family and his colleagues."

Meanwhile, Prison Service director general Sue McAllister said her thoughts were with the victim and his family, adding that his colleagues would not be deterred.

"This was a despicable act and an attack on us all," she said.

"This officer serves the entire community and whoever was behind this has nothing to offer anyone in Northern Ireland.

"Today we stand side by side together, united as a service. We will continue to do our jobs, and to serve the whole of Northern Ireland."

The POA, the trade union which represents prison officers, branded the attack "cowardly and disgraceful".

The scene of the blast borders south and east Belfast.

Among those at the extensive police cordon from early in the morning were Democratic Unionists Emma Pengelly, whose constituency office is nearby, and East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson.

Mrs Pengelly said: "We are trying to build a peaceful Northern Ireland. This is not the type of thing that we want to see here.

"Regardless of who planted the bomb - this is absolutely unacceptable. It is disgusting, it is shocking, it is putting people's lives at serious risk and it needs to stop and needs to stop now."

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly has said there can be no place in society for such attacks, adding that they are wrong.

"I hope that the man injured in this incident makes a full and speedy recovery," he said.

"Those behind attacks like this represent no one and have nothing to offer the community.

"They need to listen to the views of the vast majority of people in our society call an immediate end to these futile actions."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the perpetrators as thugs and criminals.

Mr Eastwood said: "They need to understand that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us and the first generation brought up in peace will not stand for it.

"My thoughts and prayers and that of all party members are with the victim and his family during what must be an incredibly distressing time.

"These people claim to be in conflict with the British government, the British Army or the PSNI but they are not. Their fight is with the people of Ireland who have overcome the bombs and bullets of violent thugs in the past and are resolved never to allow it to happen again."

East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle also expressed his outrage at the "sickening echo of the past".

"I am shocked and sickened someone has attempted to take the life of this man," said Mr Lyttle.

"It is difficult to put into words the contempt every right-thinking member of society will have for those behind this attack. The people responsible offer nothing except death, injury and disruption.

"Those trying to return Northern Ireland to a climate of fear will not be allowed to win. My thoughts and prayers are with those injured by this device, and I would urge anyone with information about this incident to contact police immediately."

Church leaders have also spoken of their horror and revulsion.

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Ian McNie said: "I saw first hand the invaluable work that prison officers undertake on our behalf on a visit to Maghaberry in November. This attack is a throwback to a past that should never be repeated, as violence, then as now, has no place in our society."

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Reverend Brian Anderson, who grew up in the area where the attack took place, said the action was a stark reminder that the men of violence were still active.

"Knowing that in reality such people do not give any heed to the condemnation of their actions, I would nevertheless utterly condemn this savage action and offer my sympathy to the prison officer, his family and all his colleagues," he said.

"I hope that this tragedy will galvanise the total community revulsion against those who have carried out this dastardly act."

Rev Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore, said it was a "deplorable" act and wished the victim well. Archdeacon David McClay, whose Willowfield Parish takes in the Woodstock area, said: "Local people in the Woodstock are appalled by the attack this morning.

"He and his family are in our prayers, as are all those who are impacted by this criminal and detestable act."

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