Prison officer bombing: ‘This is part of republican campaign inside jails’

The van (centre, top) under which a device exploded in east Belfast

The van (centre, top) under which a device exploded in east Belfast

A stream of condemnation has flowed in over the attempt to blow up a van, leaving a prison officer in hospital.

As of about 10.30am, the Belfast health trust said the victim’s condition was “stable”.

In a statement from the TUV, East Belfast Assembly candidate Andrew Girvin said: “It is despicable that anyone would target a prison officer in this way.

“Others could have been injured or worse and it is worth noting that the attack has disrupted the life of a local primary school and has caused people to be evacuated from their homes.

“This attack is part of the ongoing campaign by republicans to re-assert control inside the prison walls. It is important that the powers that be do not bow to this sort of pressure.”

Sinn Fein had been among the parties to send in a statement of condemnation in the immediate wake of the attack.

Mr Girvin noted that there was some degree of cross-over between dissident republicans and those formerly active in the PIRA.

He added that “a party of government – Sinn Fein/IRA – continues to be overseen by the Army Council of an illegal terrorist organisation which retains weapons”.

The UUP leader Mike Nesbitt MLA said of the bombing: “It is a barbaric act which must be condemned by wider society.

“My thoughts are with the injured prison officer, his family, friends and colleagues and I hope that he will make a full recovery...

“There are families sitting at home this morning listening to the news who thought that we had left these days behind. We must think about the wider impact that this will have on others such as David Black’s family.”

He added: “It is possible to stop this.

“The history of terrorism is that it only survives when there is a level of community support, be it the act of the turning of a blind eye.

“Even Gerry Adams acknowledged it – ‘The IRA will only be defeated when the wee women (of west Belfast) throw the guns onto the street’.”

Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said: “I utterly condemn this vicious attack on a prisoner officer east Belfast.

“Like all his colleagues in the prison service, this officer serves the whole of the community, in stark contrast to the people who carried out this appalling and violent crime.

“I strongly urge anyone with information about this murder attempt to contact the police to help bring those responsible to justice.”

See here for list of high-profile dissident actions in recent years.