Monday 20 November 2017

Pipe bomb found in bus as gardai on high alert for threats

Army bomb disposal officers prepare to examine the device left on the bus last night
Army bomb disposal officers prepare to examine the device left on the bus last night

Brendan Farrelly and Tom Brady

ARMY bomb disposal experts early today dealt with a viable explosive device found on a Dublin-bound bus on the eve of the royal visit.

A massive security operation is underway in the city ahead of the Queen's arrival.

Police are patrolling the streets, parking is prohibited in many areas and large swathes of the city have been closed off.

Up to 30 passengers had to be evacuated after gardai stopped the bus in Maynooth, Co Kildare, at 9.30pm.

The incident followed an anonymous call to gardai in Longford that a device was on board the 5.45pm Ballina to Dublin bus.

Three garda cars stopped the bus on the Straffan Road near the railway station and immediately evacuated everybody on board the vehicle, which was being run by a private operator for Bus Eireann.

Gardai sealed off the surrounding area and warned residents to stay indoors.

A three-mile stretch of the road was shut down and an Army bomb disposal team arrived at the scene at about 11.30pm.

The pipe bomb, which was described as viable, was still being made safe at 1am this morning before being examined by garda forensic experts.

The discovery of the explosive device came after a coded bomb threat by the Real IRA in London sparked fears that a similar warning here could create a security nightmare for this week's visit by Queen Elizabeth.

The caller issued a recognised codeword used in the past by the dissident republican gang and it led to a five-hour shutdown near Buckingham Palace yesterday morning.

Senior garda officers said last night the alert in London underlined the need for the strict measures being implemented here to protect the queen during her four-day visit.

Scotland Yard believes the threat call was made from the Republic but had not pinned down the location last night.

Last month a masked member from the Real IRA declared its opposition to the visit at a rally in Derry and threatened to kill more police officers. It was responsible for the murder of two soldiers at Massereene Barracks in Antrim in March 2009.

The security alert in London was based mainly around The Mall, although the call, which was made on Sunday night, did not specify a time or a location.

It was the first coded warning by dissident republicans in London for more than a decade.

Now garda anti-terrorist officers are concerned that a similar attempt will be made today in a bid to create chaos during the queen's visit.

The queen is due to arrive at Baldonnel airbase at midday and around two hours later will be taken to visit the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, where the city centre streets have been shut down by gardai since Saturday and protest groups will be kept back from the secured site.

Activists from socialist republican group eirigi have been forced to move back from Parnell Square, which was flagged as a potential flashpoint, and will stage their demonstration elsewhere in the capital.

In addition to the streets shut at the weekend, the remaining sides of Parnell Square and O'Connell Street in both directions will be closed from 7am, while at midday the closures will also extend to Westmoreland Street, D'Olier Street, College Street, Nassau Street and South Leinster Street.

After a short stay at the Garden of Remembrance, the queen will then visit Trinity College for about an hour and return to her residence for the three nights at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park.

As a ban on private planes was put into operation, the Air Corps and Army surveillance teams prepared to scan the skies before the arrival of the royal flight, with the Naval flagship, the Eithne, patrolling Dublin Bay.

Gardai expect some minor disturbances during the visit and two special sittings of the district court will be held each day at Cloverhill, if required, until next Tuesday.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said last night that the vast majority of people were looking forward to the queen's visit and those who engaged in terrorist stunts were just attention seekers.

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