Belfast Telegraph

Two days after Derry Everglades Hotel bomb attack, it's business as usual

By Deborah McAleese

Just three days after it was badly damaged in a firebomb attack, 1,500 athletes from across the world lined up outside the Everglades Hotel for the start of Derry's Walled City.

The hotel had already reopened for business on Saturday afternoon after staff and contractors worked throughout Friday night to get it ready to receive guests again.

The building was damaged when a masked man, who said he was from the IRA, placed a holdall containing the device in the reception area of the hotel on Thursday night.

Guests and staff were evacuated, but the firebomb burst into flames as an Army technical officer tried to examine it.

No one was injured in the attack but the fire caused extensive damage to the hotel lobby.

The whole reception area was damaged and there was a lot of smoke and water damage throughout the building.

The Everglades is part of the Hastings Hotel Group and recently hosted a PSNI recruitment event.

It is thought this may have been a motive for the attack.

Stephen Meldrum, a senior manager with Hastings Hotels, said the company had received "tremendous support" since the attack and was keen to "show that it is business as usual".

Visiting the hotel at the weekend, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness – who was the official starter for yesterday's Walled City Marathon – said the city was still open for business.

"I think that the people of this city won't lie down under this. This is absolutely despicable and unacceptable behaviour," he said.

"I think there will be a very clear message going out from the people of this city to those who were responsible for endangering the lives of the workers here, endangering the lives of the residents and endangering the reputation of this city," Mr McGuinness added.

Police said that the masked man went into the hotel and left a hold-all at the reception desk saying he was from the IRA.

He warned that people had 40 minutes to get out. He then ran out of the hotel. No recognised code word was given.

The man then got into a red Volkswagen car which was later burnt out in the Glendara area of Derry.

As Army bomb experts were working to make the device safe it exploded in the reception area of the hotel.

The local police commander, PSNI Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin, described those responsible for carrying out the firebomb attack as "cowards".

He praised staff who had worked to evacuate the building, saying they had "no doubt saved lives".

Background

It is believed the Everglades was attacked in an effort to deter Catholics from attending a police recruitment drive at the hotel in coming days.

The prestigious hotel was previously used by the PSNI as an information day for those considering a career with the police. A second similar event has been scheduled in early June, but it is not clear if this will now go ahead.

In a similar attack three years ago, a device in a holdall was thrown into a branch of Santander bank in the same city and exploded inside an hour.

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