POLICE have blamed dissident republican organisation the New IRA for Saturday night’s van bomb attack on Derry courthouse.
It has also been revealed the bomb warning was made to the Samaritans but was picked up by a branch in the English Midlands, reducing the warning time.
Two men in their twenties were arrested in Derry’s Creggan area early yesterday morning in connection with the attack while another two, aged 34 and 42 were arrested in the city last night.
Police said this morning a fifth man had been arrested in connection with the bomb. The 50-year-old is also being held in connection with an armed robbery in the Meadowbank Avenue area of the city on Tuesday 15 January.
Dissident republican group Saoradh said the attack was carried out to mark the centenary of the Soloheadbeg ambush and the killing of two RIC officers which marked the start of the Irish War of Independence.
The dissident group said: “Early reports from the city of Derry are indicating that a British institution in the form of Derry City courthouse has been attacked this (Saturday) evening in what is believed to have been a mine attack by republican revolutionaries.”
The bomb was placed in a van belonging to a pizza delivery driver after he was hijacked at Quarry Street a short time before. PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said a police patrol came upon the vehicle parked outside the city’s courthouse. The vehicle was on Bishop Street beside the security entrance.
“Around five minutes later, information was received that a device had been left at the courthouse. We moved immediately to begin evacuating people from nearby buildings including hundreds of hotel guests, 150 people from the Masonic Hall and a large number of children from a church youth club. The device detonated at 8.10pm,” he said.
The remains of a car bomb that exploded outside the Court House in Derry city, N-Ireland on Saturday night. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 19-1-2019.
Sunday services at St Columb’s Church of Ireland Cathedral were cancelled while those at the nearby St Augustine’s were transferred to St Peter’s.
Guests at the Bishop’s Gate Hotel were locked into the building as police established a cordon and were eventually led to safety.
Bride-to-be, Karen McGrath was starting out on her hen night with friends at the hotel when the bomb went off. She told the Irish News it was “all a bit scary.”
Ms McGrath said: “We were staying in the hotel and we were just having dinner when we heard a loud bang. We were just told to stay where we were; the police were trying to find out what was going on.”
The attack – the first in Derry for several years – was widely condemned by political leaders while members of the public took to social media to denounce the bombers.
Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley said the bombers had nothing to offer??
“This is intolerable violence and we want to look forward and build a peaceful future for all in Northern Ireland,” she said.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the incident was a “terrorist attack” while SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood said those responsible represented no-one. Derry Sinn Féin MP, Elisha McCallion called on anyone with information about the attack to pass it on to police.
“Derry is a city moving forward and no-one wants this type of incident,” she said.
DUP leader, Arlene Foster said the bombing was a “pointless act of terror.” She said it only hurt the people of Derry and those behind it had no regard for life.
The city’s SDLP mayor, John Boyle said he was appalled by the attack in the heart of the city.
Only a madman would want a return to the violence.
Lord Mountbatten killed by IRA bomb. Lord Mountbatten killed when a bomb planted by the IRA exploded on their leisure boat in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland on 27 August 1979