Wednesday 23 October 2019

Dissident republican weapon 'intended to kill police' found hidden at primary school in Belfast

Police at Holy Cross Primary School in Belfast. Photo: Kevin Scott
Police at Holy Cross Primary School in Belfast. Photo: Kevin Scott Newsdesk Newsdesk

A weapon believed to belong to dissident republicans has been found at a primary school in north Belfast.

The weapon was discovered at Holy Cross Boys' Primary School on Monday afternoon.

Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts said that police believe the weapon was "probably destined to be used in an attempt to kill or seriously injure police officers".

He described the item recovered as an "improvised weapon" which had the potential to fire a "high calibre round".

"Our working theory at this time is that this weapon was most likely to have been left there by dissident republicans terrorists," he said.

"I would like to apologise for the inconvenience that was caused to the students, parents, school staff and the wider community.

A policeman at Holy Cross Primary School in Belfast. Photo: Kevin Scott
A policeman at Holy Cross Primary School in Belfast. Photo: Kevin Scott

"I hope they will understand and accept it was necessary that we be absolutely satisfied that there was no ongoing risk to children in the immediate area."

He condemned those who left the weapon in the grounds of the school.

"I would like to say that this is an act of the utmost recklessness and a highly stupid act, the people that have done this do not represent any kind of cause, they do not represent any section of the community. What they have done is endanger the lives of children," Chief Superintendent Roberts said.

"The device was left in the immediate area where the youngest children who attend school would be playing during the course of the school day. A very, very dangerous act and I would appeal for anybody who has any information to contact the police."

Chief Superintendent Roberts said that the PSNI's Terrorism Investigation Unit had launched an investigation into the weapon "its history, who may have built it and who may have left it there".

"It's very important, particularly given the circumstances where it was left in the immediate area where children were playing that anybody with information contacts the police," he said.

Staff and around 300 pupils at the school had to leave the building on Monday after the object was discovered.

The school is set to be closed on Tuesday as police continue to search the area to ensure it is safe for pupils and staff to return.

Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts. Photo: Kevin Scott
Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts. Photo: Kevin Scott

The weapon was found within the school grounds by Holy Cross principal Kevin McArevey.

"I was helping the caretaker unblock the sewers, I lifted a manhole cover and to my surprise I saw a plastic bag with what seemed to be something heavy in it," Mr McArevey told UTV.

"I initially thought it was a small spade so I lifted it out myself and unravelled the packaging only to be surprised to see wires at the top of this object.

"It immediately aroused my suspicions so I went and I phoned the police."

SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon described the incident as "disgraceful".

Nichola Mallon.
Nichola Mallon.

"To create a device and then hide it in the grounds of a primary school shows how low these people will go and the complete disregard and disrespect they have for the community. They’re happy to put children, parents and school staff at risk," she said.

“No principal and no school should have to experience this. I’ve been in touch with Mr McArevey to offer our full support.

"This school is a proud part of the heart of the community in Ardoyne, the boys who go to it are the future. The thugs behind this have nothing to offer the people of Ardoyne and they will not drag us back to the past.”

Sinn Fein councillor Ryan Murphy said that the local community was shocked by the discovery.

"This could have caused serious injury or worse to anyone," he said.

“Those responsible have once again shown their complete and total disregard for the lives of children and our local community.

“They have nothing to offer the community and need to disband and call an end to these reckless and futile actions immediately.”

Belfast Telegraph

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