Tuesday 19 November 2019

Security alert ends in controlled explosion on suspicious object

The scene in the centre of Omagh in Co Tyrone, following the discovery of the object close to Strule Arts Centre. Photo: Jayne Wylie/PA Wire
The scene in the centre of Omagh in Co Tyrone, following the discovery of the object close to Strule Arts Centre. Photo: Jayne Wylie/PA Wire

Police have carried out a controlled explosion on a suspicious object which caused a massive security alert in Omagh, Northern Ireland.

It brought the alert, the second in just over a week, to an end and nothing untoward was found, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

The object was discovered close to Strule Arts Centre in the centre of the Co Tyrone town.

The whole town centre was cordoned off, with roads being shut and businesses evacuated.

Chief Inspector Graham Dodds said on Saturday: "I understand that incidents such as this are very disruptive for those in the town and I would like to pay tribute to all who worked with my officers this morning to ensure disruption was minimal.

"We greatly appreciate the support and co-operation from the local businesses and people in the community and regret any inconvenience caused."

He reminded members of the public of the dangers of leaving unattended items in public places.

Pharmacist Kevin Kelly, who closed his chemist shop in the town, had said he was worried that his customers were unable to access their medication.

Mr Kelly told the Press Association: "Many people will remember and will have been in town on the day of the Omagh bomb. I know that's quite some years ago now, but that rests very heavily on the minds of many, many people - people who both work in town and people who used to work in town, shopped in town, or had relatives who would have been in any way affected by the Omagh bombing.

"And that amounts to many, many hundreds of people in Omagh. And they can have instant fear and flashbacks to that event, and it can have a serious psychological effect on some people."

Mr Kelly said incidents like this create a "negative impression" of Omagh in "the minds of many".

He said that knock-on effect will be "huge" for businesses in the town, adding that the incident will have a negative impact on trade there in the run up to Christmas.

He recalled that in the weeks and months after the Omagh bomb in 1998, the town faced regular bomb scares which were "thoroughly frightening".

A production of the fairytale Goldilocks And The Three Bears, set to begin at 3pm at the Strule Arts Centre, was cancelled.

Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff said: "This is the second time within a matter of days that Omagh town centre has been sealed off due to security alerts.

"Only last Friday much of the town centre was cordoned off due to a threat against a PSNI recruitment day.

"Now we have another alert on the busiest trading day of the week.

"Not only is it affecting business in the town, which has seen significant retail investment recently, but it is inconveniencing hugely those who live and shop here.

"Many people can only manage to get their shopping done on a Saturday given everyday pressures of work and family.

"Those responsible need to come forward and explain to the residents and traders in Omagh what they hope to achieve.

"Their actions are meaningless and whatever way they try to justify them those behind these alerts will be found wanting."

A series of security alerts at buildings due to host three police recruitment events caused widespread disruption last Friday.

Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, Belfast Metropolitan College and the Waterfoot Hotel in Derry were all evacuated, with streets around them also sealed off.

Dissident republicans were blamed for the viable device placed in the grounds of the Waterfoot Hotel.

The police recruitment event at the hotel was cancelled after the bomb was left at the property.

It had originally been scheduled for last Saturday but was postponed for a week amid fears a planned dissident protest would have disrupted a wedding also being hosted at the hotel on the day.

Earlier this week, the owners of Waterfoot decided not to go ahead with the event at all. The PSNI said it was looking for an alternative venue.

Nothing untoward was found at last week's alerts in Omagh and Belfast.

PA Media

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News