Belfast Telegraph

Security alerts in Belfast, Omagh and Derry where PSNI due to host recruitment information sessions

Dissident republicans suspected to have co-ordinated the scares at venues where the PSNI are due to host jobs fairs

By Claire Williamson

A series of co-ordinated security alerts have been sparked across Northern Ireland at venues where the PSNI are due to host recruitment information sessions.

The three venues are in Belfast, Omagh and Londonderry where the job events are set to take place on Saturday.

The PSNI had already cancelled the event in Derry amid fears over a planned republican protest at the Waterfoot Hotel where a wedding was also due to take place.

Hard-line group the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) had organised a demonstration at the PSNI jobs fair in Derry's Waterfoot Hotel on Saturday.

The Foyle Bridge has now re-opened to traffic in both directions. A controlled explosion was carried out on a suspicious object found in the grounds of the Waterfoot Hotel. A clearance operation is ongoing.

Hundreds of people were earlier evacuated from the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, the Waterfoot Hotel in Derry and Belfast Metropolitan College at both Milfield and Titanic Quarter campuses.

In Omagh, business at the Courthouse was suspended and people in the Bridge Street and High Street evacuated.

Omagh's bus depot was also evacuated.

Ulster Unionist MLA for West Tyrone said he was "horrified" at "evil people once again targeting Omagh".

He said: "I am disgusted to hear that republican terrorists have targeted centres of tourism, arts and education to try and highlight their warped views. The fact that they have chosen these venues smacks of fascism.

"I am particularly horrified that these evil people have once again targeted the town of Omagh which has suffered so greviously at the hands of terrorists. They need to realise the year is 2015 and the law abiding majority in Northern Ireland have moved on while this small but evil minority try to drag us back.

“The PSNI is there to serve everybody and they do so every day of the week. However it appears that some sections of republicanism, like extremists across the globe, have a deep seated bitterness which they are unable to set aside.

"Everyone has been offered inclusive politics for 17 years. The people who set these attacks in motion are self-excluding. There should be consequences. There is no room for them in Northern Ireland, or indeed this island."

In Belfast the Millfield campus has been closed until further notice. Students and staff have been asked to leave the area.

College Avenue is closed between College Square North and Divis Street. Millfield is closed between North Street and Divis Street. The Westlink off slip onto Divis Street is also closed.

Police are advising motorists to avoid this area if possible.

The roads around the Titanic Quarter campus have since reopened.

DUP Policing Board Jonathan Craig condemned those behind the alerts.

He said: "These security alerts are another demonstration of those who want to drag Northern Ireland back into violence and fear. They want to spread that fear amongst people considering a career within the police service but we can all stand together to make sure they do not succeed.

"Suspicions for these alerts will obviously fall on dissident republicans, but the response to the recent PSNI recruitment campaign is a positive sign that they will not be successful in dragging us back."

DUP MLA for Foyle Gary Middleton said work will have to be done following this incident to encourage people to come back to the area.

He said: "At this moment in time we don't know how many people have been evacuated. They have been relocated and away to other hotels throughout the city.

"This is a concern. Regardless of what the circumstances are, it sends a very bad message and a very bad signal for people who do not live here.

"It's the job of all of us to say that this type of activity is certainly not wanted by the majority of people in this city.

"There will be a bit of work after this to try and encourage people again to come and use the facilities but as we have seen with the attack at the Everglades hotel, that business is now back bigger and stronger than ever and that;s what we will be encouraging here at the Waterfoot as well."

He added: "It is vital the entire community stands up and sends a message that we will not be intimidated by these terrorists."

SDLP Justice Spokesperson Alban Maginness said those behind the alerts "stand against the will of the people of Northern Ireland".

He said: "Those responsible for these security alerts stand against the will of the people of Northern Ireland who wish to see a representative police service working for all of the people here.

“It is extremely disappointing that these people saw fit to make a nuisance of themselves while young people from all sections of our society sought to dedicate their future in making our communities safer. They should get the picture that stunts such as these are not only futile but utterly contemptible.”

A wedding reception at the hotel in Derry was planned for the same day as the recruitment drive which prompted police to put back their event citing fears over the couple's big day.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: "A large wedding reception will be taking place at the venue on the same date, and as many people will be aware, a protest against our event has been planned.

"Those who would seek to disrupt the day have shown no thought for others.

"Out of consideration for the bride and groom, and to ensure they can fully enjoy their special day without the possibility of any disruption, we have arranged to reschedule the event."

The event will now take place at the same venue on Saturday, October 17.

Further reading:

PSNI cancels jobs fair over dissident republican protest 

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