Belfast Telegraph

Don't take peace for granted, says PSNI chief after Fermanagh bomb

Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A senior PSNI officer has warned peace in Northern Ireland should not be taken for granted as he called on political leaders to unite to tackle terrorism.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin was speaking after police officers escaped injury when an explosive device detonated in Co Fermanagh.

Army bomb disposal officers and police were at the scene when the explosion happened on the main A3 Cavan Road near Newtownbutler at around 10.35am yesterday.

Bomb disposal officers were in the nearby border area of Wattle Bridge responding to reports that a device was left there at the weekend.

That item was ultimately declared a hoax but another device exploded close by yesterday when Army Technical Officers (ATO) and police attended to review the scene.

While no one was injured in the blast, Mr Martin said he firmly believes it was a deliberate attempt by dissident republicans to lure police and ATOs into the area "to murder them".

Mr Martin also urged political leaders to move beyond words of condemnation and to "work collectively together".

He said that while the investigation is at an early stage, it is likely to examine whether either the Continuity IRA or the New IRA were behind the attack.

There is no evidence to suggest the incident was linked to Brexit, he added.

"The threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism has not decreased and has remained at severe since 2009," he said.

"We have people in our society who wake up every day and their motivation is to try and kill police, sometimes prison officers or Army personnel.

"Thankfully most of their attacks don't succeed, but small groups can cause significant effect or pose real danger.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin
Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin
The road is sealed off
Lyra McKee
DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew visit the scene

"We shouldn't take our peace for granted and need to work continuously to move forward and not allow ourselves to regress."

Mr Martin said the scene will remain closed for some time while officers conduct their investigations and ensure the area is safe.

He made a direct appeal to Northern Ireland's politicians, referring to the ongoing political stalemate.

Stormont collapsed in January 2017 amid the fall-out from the RHI scandal, and attempts to restore the institutions have stalled amid disagreements around unresolved issues such as legacy and an Irish Language Act.

Mr Martin added: "We have had two-and-a-half years of no devolved institutions.

"We have unresolved issues around legacy, tensions on the ground in communities over bonfires and the uncertainty around the EU exit.

"We have had five attempted attacks to murder police officers this year, one of which tragically killed Lyra McKee. When you add all that up, there is a time to question what type of society we want to live in.

"These terrorists have spoken and in response the police will continue to do its job and investigate this attack.

"We now need action and as a society, led by our politicians, to absolutely set out not just our condemnation to these people but to work collectively together.

"Police play their part, but on their own they are not sufficient to actually say 'you do not represent the type of society we want to live in and we want to reclaim the prosperity that we all felt a number of years ago'.

"Many people have reflected to me that things are becoming more entrenched and progress that had been made is maybe slipping back a little bit."

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said the attack was the action of "depraved and sick republican terrorists with nothing but misery to offer".

DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA said the bombers "do not represent the people of Fermanagh".

"We need to demonstrate as a society that we will not be bowed or broken by the threat of violence," she added.

"The bombers are opportunists who want nothing more than to cause fear and destruction.

"They will not be allowed to succeed."

Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew said the bomb attack was "totally wrong".

"Those responsible for this incident have nothing to offer society and need to end these actions immediately," she added.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, a Policing Board member, said: "There's no place for this in the society we've created."

Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton said it was a "despicable crime".

"For many years the people of this area were subject to a terrorist campaign of murder and intimidation, resulting in people being forced to move from their homes," she said. "Now, once again, the law-abiding people of this area are being targeted. Sadly, terrorists are still at work in our society."

Secretary of State Julian Smith said: "I commend the bravery of police and others working to keep us safe."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar strongly condemned "the cowardly actions" of those responsible, adding: "There is never any justification to use violence to achieve political aims."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph