Monday 25 March 2019

'Deep concern' at IRA claim to UK 'love bomb' parcels

Condemnation: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Tony Gavin
Condemnation: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Tony Gavin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is "deeply concerned" that a group calling itself the 'IRA' has claimed to be behind a series of parcel bombs posted to major transport hubs in the UK last week.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police and Police Scotland said a claim was received by 'The Irish News' in Belfast on Monday using a recognised code word.

Police said those claiming responsibility indicated five devices were sent, but so far only four have been recovered.

It is understood the final parcel was sent to a British army recruitment officer.

Responding to the development, Mr Flanagan described posting the devices as a "reckless and cowardly attack on the entire community".

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the people who carried out this act," he said.

The parcels were dubbed 'love bombs' in the media because they were posted using a special edition stamp released by An Post to mark St Valentine's Day 2018. The stamps featured a heart and the words 'Love Éire'.

The senders' addresses were given as Dublin.

All were A4-sized white postal bags containing yellow Jiffy bags and appeared capable of starting a small fire when opened.

No one was injured in any of the incidents and no arrests have yet been made.

"We must work together to reject those isolated groups who would discard the accomplishments of the peace process for all communities on these islands for their own narrow objectives. Their futile agenda will not succeed," Mr Flanagan said.

He said the attack would "strengthen our resolve to double our efforts to build a truly peaceful future for the people of Northern Ireland".

"I spoke to the home secretary [of the UK] yesterday and conveyed my utter disgust at these actions," Mr Flanagan said.

"They are the actions of those who are without any vision for a peaceful future on Northern Ireland. I also reaffirmed to the home secretary our deep commitment to working closely with our colleagues in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom."

Gardaí said that they were continuing their investigation and were liaising with the PSNI, Metropolitan Police and Police Scotland to determine who sent the parcel bombs.

It is understood that gardaí believe the new IRA is the most likely suspect, but they have not ruled out the possibility of a lone suspect with no political affiliations.

On Tuesday, March 5, three parcels sparked separate emergency responses across London. The packages were posted to The Compass Centre, near Heathrow Airport, the post room at Waterloo Station and the City Aviation House, near London City Airport. On Wednesday, March 6, a suspicious package was received at the University of Glasgow.

The parcel at The Compass Centre was the only one opened, causing the device to initiate which resulted in part of the package burning.

Several buildings were evacuated as a precaution.

Police in the UK said they continue to "keep an open mind" as enquiries continue.

"Extensive advice has already been issued to relevant businesses and sectors to be vigilant for and report suspicious packages to police," a spokesperson said.

"This advice was previously sent to armed forces personnel and is being reiterated again in light of this claim. We continue to urge the public to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to police."

Since last year, Garda intelligence had been indicating that the dissidents were "gearing up" for Brexit and planning to exploit any opportunities that might arise from Border-related difficulties.

Irish Independent

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