An improvised weapon discovered in the playground of a primary school in north Belfast was “most likely” left by dissident republicans to attack police, a senior police officer has said.
The weapon, which the PSNI said had the potential to fire a high-calibre round, was found by the principal and caretaker under a sewage man-hole cover at Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School, in a plastic package in a garden area of the school.
Belfast District Commander, Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts, said it was destined to be used in an attempt to kill or seriously injure police officers.
Branding it an act of “utmost recklessness” and “highly stupid”, he continued: “Those responsible do not represent any kind of cause; they do not represent any section of the community. They have endangered the lives of children.
“The weapon was left in the immediate area where the youngest children who attend school would be playing during the course of the school day.”
The school was evacuated on Monday and was closed again today.
While the security operation continued today, CS Roberts thanked the local community for their “patience and understanding”.
Ulster Unionist Party policing spokesperson, Alan Chambers MLA, condemned those who left the weapon and described them as “cowardly violent republicans who have nothing to offer anyone except more violence and misery”.
He added: “They were prepared to risk the lives of primary school children or school staff in pursuit of their deluded aims.
“Every community in Northern Ireland deserves to be policed and protected to the highest possible standard.
“This is clearly too much for a small band of fascists to accept and that is why they persist in trying to attack police officers, as we have seen in recent incidents in Londonderry, Strabane, Fermanagh, Craigavon, Castlewellan and now north Belfast.
“These people need to be actively targeted and put permanently out of business, because the darkness they want to drag us back to has been rejected by the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, who simply want to live their lives in peace.”
Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister said those behind the security alert are “utterly despicable”.
She added: “These dissidents need to leave the stage immediately and utterly. They represent no-one, offer nothing and have no major support in the local community.”