Belfast Telegraph

Bomb alert causes closure of two-mile stretch of Belfast's Westlink: Hoax bomb 'tied to lamp post'

Traffic chaos for motorists on Monday afternoon

By John Mulgrew

A hoax bomb alert in Belfast has caused massive disruption in the city centre.

A two-mile stretch of the Westlink was closed in both directions between Broadway and Clifton Street for several hours on Monday.

Army bomb teams were sent to the scene at Cullingtree Road following the discovery of a suspect object.

The stretch of road has since reopened.

It's understood a device was tied to a lamp post in the area.

It has since been declared a hoax.

A number of homes were also evacuated. The alert comes on the first day of term for school pupils across Northern Ireland.

Monday's alert also comes just 24 hours after Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness called on dissident republicans to call a ceasefire.

He made the comments during a speech in Londonderry - marking 20 years since the IRA ceasefire in 1994.

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey condemned those behind the latest bomb alert and said it 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 the daily routine of local people.

"It makes Martin McGuinness's statement even more relevant."

The alert has caused huge delays and heavy traffic across Belfast.

Areas affected include the Falls Road, Shaftesbury Square and Great Victoria Street.

Speaking in Londonderry on Sunday, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness called on dissident republicans to give up their struggle.

"There can be no return to the violence and repression that scarred this society for so long," he said.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood condemned those responsible for the latest alert.

"This alert – one of a number in recent weeks - will cause massive disruption for everyone; especially now that the remainder of schools are back," he said.

"There is simply no place for this type of disruption. Society has moved on and nobody wants this madness in their community.

"People are fed up with this type of disruption and just want to get on with their lives in peace."

Speaking about Monday's alert, PSNI chief inspector Anthony McNally said:

"Our response to today’s security alert consisted of partnership working on a number of fronts," he said.

"Firstly, a major incident traffic plan was put into operation to work with colleagues in the Department of Regional Development, Roads Service, to help keep traffic disruption to a minimum.

"Secondly, our partnership working with the local community led to the opening of the Divis Community Centre which was made available to a number of residents in the local area who had to be evacuated from their homes during the alert."

He appealed for anyone with information to contact police.

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