`Real IRA' admits bid to bomb police station
THE Republican splinter group calling itself the `real IRA' yesterday claimed responsibility for trying to kill RUC officers in a mortar bomb attack on a Border police station.
It is believed the abortive attack on the heavily fortified base at Belleek, Co Fermanagh, was deliberately timed a few hours ahead of the Sinn Fein special conference in Dublin yesterday.
More than 100 families were evacuated from their homes in the village late on Saturday night while army experts examined a battery of mortar tubes pointing in the direction of the RUC station.
In Dublin yesterday Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the dissident group was not new and had been formed some time ago. He said the attempted terror attack was ``clearly an opportunistic piece of PR''.
Condemning the attack, North Secretary Mo Mowlam said: ``It was the work of desperate people who have nothing constructive to offer. Again I say that we shall not be intimidated by attacks of this kind. The people of Northern Ireland and not terrorist splinter groups of any sort will decide, democratically, the future of the peace process.''
An explosion at 11.00pm on Saturday night caused the 250 guests attending the wedding party of Tyrone Gaelic football star Damien Gormley and Paula Bradley to evacuate Belleek's Carlton Hotel. Local SDLP councillor Tommy Gallagher said residents in the village famous for its distinctive pottery were very angry. He said mortars were notoriously inaccurate and residents living in Belleek could have been killed or injured. ``This was a very irresponsible act, having mortars beside family homes and the local hotel which was packed at the time.''
Wedding guests, together with around 100 evacuated villagers, were accommodated in a community centre before the guests were returned to Co Tyrone by coaches and taxis. The distressed bride, Paula, said she was disgusted by the planned attack. ``Whoever did this has just ruined the most important day of my life. My 93-year-old grandmother is here and it's awful that she has to be treated like this,'' she said. The groom's brother, Jody Gormley said it was a ``terrible thing to happen on Damien's big day. We came to enjoy and celebrate a great occasion but it has been wrecked.''
Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said dissident republicans responsible for the attempted bomb attack would not deter members from peace.
``Obviously I feel that they are wrong,'' he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One. ``My own view is that mainstream republicanism will speak today and they will make a decision that republicans of all sides of opinion will get behind the peace process, stay engaged and operate through the political system.''