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MP urges social media firms to act after Brexit day bomb plot 'emerged online'

Carla Lockhart

An MP has urged social media platforms to be "doing more", after suggestions that the Brexit day bomb plot first came to light online.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart made the comments after a Sunday Times article claimed that messages posted on social media had alerted police officers on both sides of the border to the possibility of an imminent dissident republican bomb attack.

A bomb attached to the underside of a lorry in the Silverwood Industrial Estate in Lurgan was found last Tuesday by the PSNI, after searches of more than 400 vehicles.

Dissident republicans from a faction of the Continuity IRA are suspected of planting the device.

It is thought that those behind the plot had attached the explosive device to a lorry which was bound for Scotland on a ferry on January 31.

A search by the PSNI at Belfast Docks that evening came up empty handed.

It was not until a further report on the evening of Monday, February 3 that PSNI officers uncovered the device.

The Sunday Times claimed that gardai in the border region were placed on a state of high alert for a possible attack on the night of Brexit, after an increase in "chatter" among dissident republicans on social media.

James Fitzgerald, an assistant professor in security studies at Dublin City University, told The Sunday Times that such sharing of information online in advance of a planned attack might suggest those behind the plot wanted "a lot of publicity".

"Violent extremist organisations always need to get their message out there," he said.

"If information was purposefully leaked in advance of the attack, it would suggest it was publicity-driven."

DUP MP Carla Lockhart was not aware of the specific role involving social media in this incident, but warned that if this was the case, social media companies needed to do more to tackle it.

"It is a very worrying report and I will certainly be investigating with the PSNI to see if this accurate," she said.

"If it is, we need to be doing more work with the social media companies to ensure this type of activity is not permitted and is controlled by the social media platforms.

"It just brings it back to the thought that it could have been such a serious incident.

"It is alarming to see how elaborate the plot was and any information that people have, they should bring it forward to the PSNI as soon as possible.

"These people deserve to be behind bars and we all need to work together to ensure they feel the full rigours of the law."

The Upper Bann MP also stressed that continued co-operation between the police forces on both sides of the border was necessary.

"It is more important than ever that the two forces on either side of the border work together to disrupt these dissident republican groups," she added.

"There is a very good working relationship between the forces and it is important they develop it and ensure these groupings are brought to task."

The PSNI and Garda were unable to provide a specific comment relating to The Sunday Times report.

A PSNI spokesperson appealed for anyone who was in the area of Silverwood Industrial Estate between 4pm and 10pm on Friday, January 31 and who may have noticed any unusual activity to contact police.

Belfast Telegraph