THE rebel IRA were trying to murder cops with a fireball bomb carried into Belfast city centre on Friday night. The sports bag bomb, packed with inflammable material according to police on Saturday, was abandoned short of its target, according to our sources.
Sources in Belfast’sArdoyne, where the incendiary device originated, say the bomb, which partially exploded, was meant to mimic the IRA fire bomb attack on the La Mon House Hotel in February 1978 which murdered 12 people. The Sunday World learned on Saturday that a posse of top police officers – up to a dozen strong, were out for their Christmas ‘do’ just 100 metres from where the lethal firebomb in a Slazenger sports bag was left.
One source said: “They got an emergency call just minutes before a squad of police rushed in to evacuate the whole of the St Anne’s Square pub/restaurant area in the heart of Cathedral Quarter, packed with pre-Christmas party revellers. “They immediately left the premises. But they were the targets. The dissident bombers knew who they were, and where they were.” In fact, the explosive sports bag was abandoned just 100 metres from where the police officers were sitting down for a meal and a drink. On Saturday, the PSNI staged a hastily convened press conference where it was stated that the bomb which partially exploded could have killed anyone nearby. Dissident republican group, Oglaigh na hEireann, later said they were responsible. Police said the explosion at Exchange Street West at about a quarter to seven on Friday night could have caused multiple deaths. The bomb went off as the area was being cleared. No-one was injured in the attack. Police said the bomb was fully functional and consisted of explosives and flammable liquid. It was in a sports bag and was left on a street about 150 metres away from the spot identified in a warning call made to a newspaper office. That was also just round the corner from where the off-duty police officers were having their Christmas party.
Even when they evacuated the restaurant they were in, they would have walked straight into the abandoned bomb. About 1,000 people were affected by the alert in Cathedral Quarter, which is one of the main entertainment venues in Belfast. On Saturday First Minister Peter Robinson said this was an “attack on democracy”. “We are witnessing the work of a mindless minority who are intent on taking the heart out of the city and wreaking havoc on the lives and businesses of the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland,” he said. Deputy First Minister (J116) Martin McGuinness (The Fisherman) said the bombers showed “a complete disregard for life”. “Their actions have done nothing to move our society forward but, instead, have caused distress to local residents, disruption to Christmas revellers and loss of revenue for surrounding businesses,” he said. At Saturday’s Press conference at the PSNI’s Brooklyn HQ in Belfast, Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway said: “This device was fully functional. It could have injured or killed members of the public and it has similarities to previous devices used by dissident republicans. “I would like to make a direct appeal to people who were in the area on Friday night and ask them did they see a male wearing a black hoidie carrying a black Slazenger bag in and around 6pm. “If they saw this person or anybody acting suspiciously I would appeal to them to come forward to detectives. “We are working very hard to keep Belfast safe and we will continue to do that but we need the community to be vigilant. We want them to go about their normal businness and support the premises in the town but be vigilant and if they see anything suspicious in the town don’t hesitate to lift the phone and tell us.” On Saturday and Saturday night it was ‘business as usual’ in Cathedral Quarter.
Dermot and Catherine Regan, owners of the Potted Hen restaurant close to the scene of the eexplosion said they were grateful for public support. “Thankfully no one was injured and there was no physical damage to the area. We are back to normal service from lunchtime on Sunday and will be contacting everyone who had booked for last night and whose evening entertainment was ruined,” they said. And Storming Shame Fein Sports and Culture Minister Caral Ni Chilin certainly voted with her feet. She visited the Cathedral Quarter in an unofficial capacity on Saturday evening, had a drink in a bar there, and when asked if she was giving a vote of confidence to the area after the Friday night bomb fright, said: “That’s why I’m here.”
‘My problem was never with the traders. We never set out to target trade – Jamie Bryson.
TWO controversial loyalist parade planned to take place in Belfast and Bangor in the run-up to Christmas have been postponed until the New Year.
Sandy RowOrange Lodge announced last night that it had taken a decision to postpone a parade through Belfast city centre this Saturday. In a statement, it said the decision was taken “after listening to city centre traders and the local community; and in light of the heightened level of security due to Republican terrorism”. It said it beleived a further parade “at this time through the city centre would not be in the interests of our fellow citizens and therefore as an act of goodwill in this Christmas season we have decided to postpone the parade until early in the New Year”. “The Parades Commission again sought to criminalise Unionists by their determinaton; however, we will not fall into their trap. When we next notify to parade the current Commission will thankfully be gone,” it said. “The support for our Ligoniel brethren remains resolute and indeed we would continue to encourage our members and friends to support the ongoing protest and parades at Camp Twaddell and the Woodvale Road.”
Meanwhile, a loyalist parade planned for Bangor on December 21 has also been postponed until the new year after traders met with organisers. Last month prominent flag prostester Jamie Bryson, revealed plans to bring 2,500 people and 14 bands through the seaside town on the last Saturday before Christmas and one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Oganised by the North Down Ards branch of the Ulster People’s Forum (UPF), the parade was intended to highlight complaints against the PSNI by loyalists and protest at the decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the Union Flag at City Hall a year ago. The Bangor parade was called off after talks beween local traders and organisers last week during which local business people voiced their fears that trade would be hit “during such a sensitive and fragile trading period”. President of Bangor Chamber of Commerce, Ken Sharp, said had the parade gone ahead the impact would have been “immeasurable”. “The chamber beleives in engaging with as many parts of the wider Bangor community as possible to work togeather for the improvement of Bangor through investment, trade and jobs.” Flag protester Jamie Bryson said the disputed parade will take place early in the new year. “My problem was never with the traders. We never set out to target trade,” he said.
With many thanks to: Connla Young and Marie Louise McCrory, The Irish News.
They also said that minutes earlier the band played music while passing nearby St Patrick‘s Church on Donegall Street as Apprentice Boys made their way home from the annual Lundy parade in Derry. Nationalist residents were critical of the Parades Commission after it failed to restrict the playing of music in the area. In the past loyalst bands have played sectarian music as they passed both the church and Carrick Hill. Locals last night said that up to 50 Apprentice Boys and one band passed St Patrick’s as parishioners were making their way into church for Mass. Carrick Hill Concerned Residents’ Group spokesman Frank Dempsey critiicised the Parades Commission for not placing restrictions. “The Parades Commission sent a band down here knowing well Mass was on and they put no restrictions on the music,” he said. Police last night confirmed that an 18-year-old man was arrested for disorderly behaviour and resisting police at Cliftion Street during the parade and later charged. He is expected to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on January 3.
In North Belfast two nationalist residents groups called off protests during an Apprentice Boys feeder parade past Ardoyne on Saturday. One band and up to 115 people took part in the march past the flashpoint. Tensions in the area have been high since the Parades Commission banned Orangemen from passing the nationalist district as they made their way home from their annual Twelfth celebrations in July. A loyalist protest camp has been set up on nearby wasteground while nightly parades are held in the area. Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) spokesman Dee Fennell said they suspended plans for a protest “to reduce tension, give traders respite and reduce disruption” in the area. Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents’ Association (CARA) spokesman Joe Marley said their protest was called off as a “gesture of goodwill”. Meanwhile, up to 3,000 poeple and 31 bands took part in the main Apprentice Boys parade in Derry on Saturday commemorating the 17th century siege of the city. It passed off without incident and was described as a success. An Apprentice Boys feeder parade in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, also passed off peacefully. Meanwhile, Parades Commission chairman Peter Osborne has accused some politicians in the north of providing bad leadership. He was speaking after an illegal loyalist parade was held through Belfast city centre on November 30. Police confirmed last week that the organiser of the parade had been interveiwed and would be prosecuted, while The Irish Newsalso revealed that a bandsman involved in a march past St Matthew’s Church in East Belfast last year has become the first person to be given a jail term for breaching a Parades Commission ruling. “I am not happy that anybody is being posecuted for parades-related offences and other offences that will have a hugely detrimental impact on their life,” he told the BBC. “I think there’s some bad leadership in the North of Ireland at the minute, the result of which there are a lot of young people being arrested and prosecuted and have criminal records when they really don’t need to have.”
With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News.
SINN Fein has hit out at the Parades Commission after it ruled an Apprentice Boys parade could march through a nationalist area of Castlederg this weekend.
The Apprentice Boys will march through the Co Tyrone town on Saturday morning and evening. The commission placed restrictions on the evening parade, preventing it from marching through Priest’s Lane, Ferguson Crescent, Killeter Road and Alexander Park. But the commission has allowed the morning parade to move through the predominantly nationalist Ferguson Crescent area. The feeder parades are part of the annual Lundy’s Day parade in Derry on Saturday. Around 2,500 Apprentice Boys are expected to take part in the Derry parade. There have been heightened community tensions in Castlederg following several loyalist parades and a controversial republican commemoration over the summer. Sinn Fein Castlederg councillor Ruairi Mc Hugh said it is the first time a loyalist march has been allowed to pass through Ferguson Crescent,without restrictions, since 2006. He accused the commission of “double standards”. “There has been upwards of 20 unionist parades of one type or another in Castlederg this year alone, which is totally disproportionate given the demographics of the town,” he said. Mr McHugh said as far as he was aware, the parade’s organisers had not attempted to consult with people in Ferguson Cerscent about the march. This determination stands in stark contrast to the sole Republician commemoration this year in August which the commission blocked from even entering our own town centre, which made a mockery of the town centre being a shared space for all the communities in Castlederg,” he said. “It seems some are more equal in Castlederg in the eyes of the Parades Commission.”
Politicians from all sides called for the march to be banned or moved to another day. They and business leaders said the organisers’ identities should be made public so that they could be challenged. Police and the Parades Commission refused to publish the names for “data protection” reasons. Yesterday The Irish Newsrevealed that the organiser whose identity has been concealed for weeks was John ‘Dougie’ Lanigan, pictued above. He is orginally from Belfast but is believed to live with his wife in Antrim. Two police officers were injured after the parade and the protest breached a commission ruling by failing to leave the city centre by 12.30pm. The march, which marked almost a year since councillors voted to restrict flying the Union Flag from the city hall, was organised under the name of Loyal Peaceful Protesters. The parade application estimated that up to 10,000 loyalists and 40 bands would join the demonstration but in the end just over 1,000 people and two bands materialised at the city hall on Saturday. The Sashwas also played as the parade passed the nationalist Carrick Hill area of North Belfast. Friends took to social networking sites to congratulate Mr Lanigan for the protest, descibing him as “a true loyalist”. It is understood he was asked to hand himself in to police on Monday over a breach of a commission ruling. When asked by The Irish News on Monday night about his role, he said: “We have nothing to say to any of the papers.” Police said officers interviewed a “49-year-old man in connection with a breach of a Parades Commission determination on Saturay November 30 2013 in Belfast city centre“. The man voluntarily attended a Belfast police station on Monday afternoon. He was later released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service. In September, the same loyalist organisation held another unlawful parade through the city centre towards the Shankill area. More than 3,000 protesters joined the Saturday afternoon demonstration, which breached a Parades Commission determination by setting off from city hall an hour later than planned. Politicians including Shame Fein’s Gerry Kelly, Alban Maginness of the SDLP and Glyn Roberts of the Nothern Ireland Independant Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) had previously called for the organisers of Saturday’s parade to be named. Mr Maginness said there needed to be more accountabilty from those organising parades. “If there is not a duty on those who have made the application to disclose their identity there ought to be in the interests of scrutiny,” the North Belfast MLA said ahead of Saturday’s protest. “It’s reasonable for those who are organising to identify themselves or be identified.