Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader denies suggestion Fermanagh bomb was linked to political stalemate and Brexit

DUP Leader Arlene Foster visits the scene on the Cavan Road near Fermanagh. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
DUP Leader Arlene Foster visits the scene on the Cavan Road near Fermanagh. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

By Eimear McGovern

The DUP leader has hit back at suggestions a bomb attack in Fermanagh targeting police and army officers was linked to Brexit and the ongoing political stalemate.

Arlene Foster said there should be no excuses made for the people who planted the bomb, who she described as getting up in the morning with "murder and mayhem in their heads".

"(There are) No excuses whatsoever, not Brexit, not Stormont, not anything. This happened because people who are dissident republicans decided to get up and blow members of the security forces to smithereens," the DUP leader said.

"I think that should be called out for what it is, unfortunately these people have been successful over the last number of years when there was no mention of Brexit and no mention of Stormont not being in existence. It's important to call these people out."

Army bomb disposal officers and police narrowly escaped injury when the bomb detonated on the main A3 Cavan Road at around 10.35am on Monday.

Deputy chief constable Stephen Martin said that a strong line of inquiry is that dissident republicans were responsible for the explosion, namely either the Continuity IRA or the New IRA.

Bomb disposal officers had been in the nearby Wattle Bridge area at the weekend responding to reports that a device had been left there.

That item was ultimately declared a hoax but it is understood another device exploded close-by on Monday when a bomb disposal team attended to review the scene.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Martin said there was currently no suggestion that the attack was connected to Brexit - but said that the political stalemate, unresolved issues around legacy and the uncertainty around Brexit all pointed to a need for reflection on the part of the community and politicians.

But Ms Foster said it's not the first time that Wattle Bridge in Co Fermanagh has been a target in such attacks before Brexit came into existence.

Armed PSNI officers at a Road Block at Gortinacarrow Co Fermanagh about two miles from the scene at Wattle Bridge.
Armed PSNI officers at a Road Block at Gortinacarrow Co Fermanagh about two miles from the scene at Wattle Bridge.

"We've had instances where republicans have been successful over the past ten years where there was no mention of Brexit and Stormont was up and running," she said.

"I don't think it's right that we should allow there to be excuses for these people who, as the deputy chief constable made clear, get up in the morning with murder and mayhem in their heads, they want to go out and kill people who they see as representative of the British way of life, anyone they see as a legitimate target."

Speaking on the BBC's Evening Extra programme on Monday, Ms Foster welcomed the fact politicians from across the spectrum had condemned the attack.

"We must now stand together and I'm willing to stand with anyone as I did in the Creggan after that horrific murder of Lyra McKee. We must come together and we must defeat this," she said.

Ms Foster was also asked about recent developments at Harland & Wolff, where two "credible" bids to buy the struggling shipyard are being considered.

"We understand from what was a very positive meeting with administrators that there are two credible and viable bids and there are other interested parties as well," she said.

"There has to be time given for companies to carry out due diligence. We will continue to support administrators in this process."

When asked about the leak of a confidential Whitehall dossier containing contingency plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit dubbed Operation Yellowhammer, Ms Foster said she wasn't willing to undermine the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"Since the prime minister has been in office he has accelerated plans for a no-deal Brexit but we still want a deal and I firmly believe a deal is the best way forward.

"I am certainly not going to undermine the prime minister. A border east west is as objectionable and should be as objectionable as infrastructure north south because a border east west will cost money, and that's the problem," she said.

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