Belfast bomb hoax causes road chaos on first day of new school term
Dissident republicans have been blamed for a security alert which shut down a major arterial route for several hours causing traffic snarl-ups across Belfast.
A two-mile stretch of the Westlink was closed in both directions following the discovery of a suspect object which had been strapped to a lamppost.
Those responsible for the hoax were strongly condemned for the widespread disruption caused on the day thousands of children began their first day of the new school year.
Just hours prior to yesterday's alert, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told dissident republicans they had no future.
Army technical officers were called to examine the object at around 11am and a number of items removed for forensic examination. They later declared the alert a hoax.
Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said the alert reinforced the comments made by Mr McGuinness.
"It's the first day of the school term and people with families will be trying to collect their children," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It's clear those who left this device are not concerned with anyone else, and won't achieve anything aside from disrupting local people's daily routine.
"It makes Martin McGuinness's statement even more relevant."
Mr Maskey's party colleague, MLA Fra McCann, said those responsible have nothing to offer the community.
"Actions like these do not improve the situation in any way and only add to the problems.
"This needs to stop. It achieves nothing except adding to the difficulties of the local community."
SDLP west Belfast councillor Tim Attwood said the alert was "madness".
"People are fed up with this type of disruption and just want to get on with their lives in peace," he added.
PSNI Chief Inspector Anthony McNally, Area Commander for west Belfast, urged anybody with information about the incident to contact police.
He said: "I also want to reassure the wider community that we remain focused on keeping people safe."
Homes were evacuated in the Cullingtree Road area throughout the afternoon.
One motorist who missed an appointment at the Royal Victoria Hospital as he travelled from Newtownards described the situation as "traffic armageddon".
"I had an appointment this morning just after 11am," he said. "I waited seven months for it."
"I got caught in such a snarl-up I missed the appointment then it took me 50 minutes to rejoin the motorway."
Other frustrated commuters vented their anger on social media, with many commenting that they were stuck in traffic.
One angry driver said: "Sweet Lord! Traffic in Belfast is mad!!" Another said: "Don't even think about driving in Belfast if you don't need to. Two hours in traffic – not a happy bunny."