School principal condemns malicious phone calls made to ‘safe havens’

Geoff Dunn MBE, principal, at the Ballysally Primary School
Geoff Dunn MBE, principal, at the Ballysally Primary School

The principal of a Coleraine primary school has condemned a malicious phone call made to Ballysally Primary School school this morning.

The 9.45am call was made to the East Londonderry school as six other schools in Northern Ireland also received sinister phone calls.

Principal Geoff Dunn said he received the threatening phone call to his 250-pupil school from a male caller.

He said after receiving the bomb warning the school was “immediately evacuated”.

“The emergency services were called and thankfully the pupils are all safe and well,” he said.

“It was a disgrace there was a threat put on the school - but the children and the staff were amazing.”

Mr Dunn said: “We got them out of the school and the premises and into a play park and they were exceptional.

“In fact the whole community in Ballysally came together. A local Presbyterian church opened their doors so the children could use the facilities and one of the local shop keepers brought down biscuits and juice free of charge.”

Mr Dunn added that his school, like many others, is “a safe haven for so many children”.

“It should be a place of utmost safety,” he added. “This was taken away from us for a period of time.

“And it is a credit to the staff who were able to bring everyone out of the school so quickly.

“The police did a very thorough check and told us it was part of a nationwide hoax.”

Although the list of schools who received phone call warnings and were subsequently evacuated have not been confirmed, they are reported as including: Bloomfield Primary School in Bangor; Linn Primary School Larne; and Leadhill Primary School Castlereagh.

UUP MLA for north Down Alan Chambers tweeted: “Very distressing for pupils, staff and parents to have their day disrupted by malicious bomb scares. To be condemned in strongest terms.”

And UUP MLA Roy Beggs tweeted: “I unreservedly condemn the series of malicious communications to schools today which includes Linn PS in Craigyhill #Larne #EastAntrim”.

In a statement SDLP Justice Spokesperson Alex Attwood MLA said: “Today has seen children across Northern Ireland and Britain evacuated from their classrooms. It is a development that will shock many and must be condemned by everyone.

“I commend the actions of staff who acted quickly and professionally as the situation unfolded. As details continue to emerge we must remember this disturbance comes at a time when pupils across these islands prepare for their exams. To threaten children and staff in this way is utterly reprehensible.

“Any and all threats must be taken seriously and the PSNI will work with their colleagues in the South and in Britain as they pursue those responsible.”

Earlier, in a statement, a spokesman for the Education Authority said: “The Education Authority has been made aware of malicious communications to a number of schools today.

“Schools have in place policies and procedures for dealing with such incidents. They have been working closely with their local PSNI officers and taking the relevant precautionary measures to ensure the safety of all children.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said they had nothing further to add.