A van driver at the centre of a dramatic security alert was last night praised for refusing to deliver a suspected bomb to a major PSNI station.
Londonderry suffered serious disruption as police and Army descended on Buncrana Road, one of the main routes in the city, when the driver abandoned his vehicle there after masked men told him to take an object to Strand Road station.
He was approached in the Galliagh area at 12.30pm, and the object – described by some as being in a wheelie bin – was loaded into the back.
But he instead left the van at Buncrana Road, and the alarm was raised.
One of those nearby at the time was Declan Wylie, who told UTV the trembling driver had jumped out and explained what had happened.
The stretch of road where the lorry stopped is currently the scene of resurfacing work.
Mr Wylie added: “He (the lorry driver) said basically there was nobody on this road, and that’s why he left it there.”
Among those advised to leave the area were staff at St Columb’s College, who were preparing for today’s GCSE results.
It later turned out that the alert was a hoax.
DUP deputy mayor Gary Middleton said it caused disruption throughout the whole city, because it is such a central route.
He added: “I must say, I do commend the driver on his bravery.”
These sentiments were echoed by the SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood, who also praised the man’s nerve in defying the orders he was given.
He said: “In recent years Derry has been hitting international headlines for all the right reasons.
“We cannot allow our new image to be tarnished by those who are hell-bent on recreating the mayhem of the past.”
The UUP Foyle constituency chairman, Ronnie McKeegan, said that given the target, “the finger of suspicion must fall on those republicans wedded to violence who still have not got the message that their day is over”.
Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle branded those behind the incident “dangerous individuals”, while Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney MLA said: “Those behind this incident showed no regard for the driver of the vehicle or the people of Derry.”
The PSNI asked for information from the public by calling them on 101, ringing Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or by talking to “a community or civic representative”.