Praise for city hotel’s ‘Phoenix-like’ recovery

The Everglades Hotel in Londonderry re-opened on Saturday after being badly damaged in a fire bomb attack on Friday.
The Everglades Hotel in Londonderry re-opened on Saturday after being badly damaged in a fire bomb attack on Friday.

Around 1,500 runners have taken part in Londonderry’s Walled City Marathon only days after a firebomb attack on the Everglades Hotel.

Yesterday’s race began outside the target of the latest terrorist incident in the city – thought to have been the work of dissident republicans.

The Everglades owner and staff have been praised for the speedy return to business.

Sir William Hastings, chairman of Hastings Hotels, visited the scene on Friday and said staff worked hard to ensure the hotel reopened without delay.

Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey described the swift reopening as “Phoenix-like”.

He said: “The actions undertaken by staff on the night of the attack have been praised, and rightly so.

“It does not bear thinking about as to what carnage could have been witnessed had they not done so.”

The marathon was won by Kenyan Freddy Keron Sittuk who crossed the Guildhall Square finish line in a time of two hours, 25 minutes and 47 seconds.

About 1,500 athletes from Northern Ireland and around the world took part in the marathon – which made a return to the city in 2013 for the first time in almost 30 years.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness addressed the assembled runners before the race started.

Police said the Everglades’ reception area was badly damaged when the bomb exploded as Army technical officers approached to investigate.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin said: “A masked man went into the hotel and left a holdall at the reception desk saying he was from the IRA.”

It is thought the hotel was targeted because it hosted a PSNI recruitment event recently.

Among those reacting to the attack was newly elected independent councillor Gary Donnelly.

Mr Donnelly, a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, said he could not speak for those who had left the device.

He said: “The people who planted this device will give their own rationale. I am not willing to speak for them nor have I ever claimed to. I will not be acting as their cheerleader nor will I be calling them traitors.

“History has shown that the politics of condemnation does not work.”

Cllr Donnelly said there “is an onus on the PSNI to be aware of where they conduct their recruiting and propaganda”.