Belfast Telegraph

Paisley tweet over ‘terror attack’ sparks confusion

The scene of yesterday’s security alert
The scene of yesterday’s security alert

By Claire O'Boyle

The DUP's Ian Paisley sparked confusion yesterday with a tweet saying a police officer had come under attack from terrorists.

He corrected his post an hour later to say that the car fire at the centre of the claim was in fact a "malfunction of the vehicle".

The MP for North Antrim tweeted: "I understand that a terrorist attack on police officer in Ballyrobert, Co Antrim, has taken place. Suspected under car booby trap device. My concern is for the officer and family of officer. Terrorism will never prevail."

He added: "Dastardly and cowardly attack!"

However, he later sent a correction out to his 15,400 followers, saying: "UPDATE reports suggest this was a major malfunction of the vehicle and not terrorist related. If so that's a huge relief and I hope those involved are uninjured."

The incident also took place at Ballyrobert near Bangor, not Co Antrim.

Mr Paisley's original tweet was shared 87 times and picked up by news outlets across Northern Ireland and the UK.

Before the correction went out, DUP leader Arlene Foster condemned the reported 'attack' during a press conference in Brussels, saying her thoughts were with those affected and describing reports as "very disturbing".

North Down Ulster Unionist MLA Alan Chambers also condemned the incident. In a statement, the PSNI confirmed the car fire at the centre of the security alert was the result of a mechanical fault.

The statement said: "Following initial enquiries at the scene, ATO (ammunition technical officers) were tasked to conduct an examination of the vehicle. Police can confirm that a mechanical fault is believed to be the cause of a car fire on A2 between Belfast and Bangor this morning, Tuesday March 6."

The police also said the driver of the car was not a serving officer.

The Army bomb squad was sent to examine the car which burst into flames on the outskirts of Bangor. Shortly before 8.30am a report was made that it had caught fire at the junction of the main Belfast/Bangor carriageway and Ballyrobert Road.

There were long delays for most of the morning while Army experts carried out their investigations before the road was reopened just before 2pm.

The threat posed by dissident republicans has been lowered in the rest of the UK, but it remains "severe" in Northern Ireland. Prison officer Adrian Ismay (52) died in March 2016 from injuries he sustained when a bomb exploded under his van in east Belfast. Christopher Robinson from Dunmurry is due to stand trial in September for his alleged involvement in the murder. At a hearing last week Mr Robinson pleaded not guilty.

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