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City-wide security alerts 'linked to East Belfast GAA bomb hoax'

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An Army expert examines a car in west Belfast yesterday

An Army expert examines a car in west Belfast yesterday

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Gavin Robinson

Gavin Robinson

Andy Allen

Andy Allen

An Army expert examines a car in west Belfast yesterday

Police believe security alerts across Belfast yesterday are connected to an incident where an East Belfast GAA training session was disrupted after officers received a call that a package had been left at their grounds.

Suspicious objects were found in the Blacks Road area of west Belfast and at Strandtown in east Belfast.

Four properties surrounding the area of the east Belfast alert were evacuated.

Bomb disposal experts were called to examine the devices and police cordons remained in place last night.

The PSNI urged anyone who had been training with the GAA club, or who had parked their car at the playing fields or surrounding areas, to check their vehicle for suspicious objects.

Belfast commander Chief Supt Jonathan Roberts said police had attended the Henry Jones playing field on Church Road in east Belfast.

 “This follows a security alert at the facility on Wednesday when a telephoned warning indicated a number of devices had been left in the area,” he added.

“Police carried out a search, based on the information received. Nothing was found.

“We believe that two ongoing security alerts at the Blacks Road area of west Belfast and at Strandtown in east Belfast are connected to Wednesday’s incident. We are urging anyone who was training with the club, or anyone else who had a parked vehicle at the playing fields or surrounding area, to check on and around their vehicle and report anything suspicious immediately to police.”

Politicians condemned the security alert at the training ground as “totally abhorrent” and a “clear attempt” to intimidate the recently formed club.

Police are treating the incident as a sectarian hate crime.

A forensic examination has also taken place on a nearby telephone box.

The playing fields are owned and operated by Belfast City Council and used by a wide-range of different groups.

East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson condemned the incident as a “clear attempt” to intimidate the GAA club.

East Belfast UUP Assemblyman Andy Allen said the alert was “totally abhorrent behaviour” and not representative of the area.

East Belfast GAA said: “The club expresses its thanks to both the PSNI and to our playing members, who behaved impeccably during the situation.

“The creation and maintenance of a safe environment for sport to be played by all and the safety of our members whilst playing remains a priority for us all.

“The club intends to continue to work with the police, the community in east Belfast and the public at large, whose support we have enjoyed on a daily basis, to ensure the continued safety and enjoyment of our members and patrons.”

“Our door remains open to all.

“The matter has now been passed to the PSNI. The club does not intend to make further comment at this time.”

SDLP councillor Seamas de Faoite said the alert was an appalling attempt to intimidate East Belfast GAA.

”The people responsible are bereft of ideas, starved of support and desperate for attention,” councillor de Faoite told this newspaper last night.

“I will be meeting with the team today, along with senior officers from Belfast City Council, to discuss what more we as a council can do to support East Belfast GAA in terms of grounds to play at with adequate security provision.”

Belfast Telegraph