Deputy mayor praises police as Londonderry mortar attack foiled

About 1,000 people had to leave their homes because of the alert and several roads were closed
About 1,000 people had to leave their homes because of the alert and several roads were closed

There is confidence within the Londonderry community that police are doing all they can to tackle dissident republican activity, the city’s deputy mayor has said.

Councillor Gary Middleton was speaking after police foiled a suspected mortar attack close to the Strand Road police station on Thursday night.

The viable mortar-type device was discovered in the Lawrence Hill area, sparking a major security alert.

Up to 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes while Army bomb experts worked through the night to make the device safe.

The attempted terrorist attack took place within 24 hours of Barry McCrory being shot dead at his Shipquay Street flat in the city centre.

Councillor Middleton said that while the attacks were a worrying development, people are reassured that the PSNI is working hard to combat the threat.

“In fairness to the PSNI they have a firm hand on these people and their intelligence must be very good,” he said.

“The last time there was a mortar attack they were able to pinpoint them (the terrorists) on the Letterkenny Road and tackle them and it was the same over at Lawrence Hill. These guys did get away but the police knew to target that point at that time so it wasn’t just a fluke, but unfortunately 1,000 people were put out of their homes and that is no consolation to them.”

The DUP councillor added: “Without doubt we have confidence that the PSNI are doing all they can.”

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: “It seems to be no coincidence that these incidents are occurring at a time when Northern Ireland is showcasing itself to the world and attempting to attract even greater levels of inward investment.”

The discovery was made as Prime Minister David Cameron flew into Northern Ireland for a major investment conference.

PSNI superintendent Stephen Cargin said the perpetrators showed a complete disregard for innocent lives.

He said: “While the device will be forensically examined in due course, it is safe to say that the intent here was to kill or injure and create fear within the community.”

Detectives believe the device was taken to its launch point in Lawrence Hill in a wheeled holdall and have released a picture of the bag involved.

They said the device had all the components to make it viable.

Prior to the murder of Barry McCrory in Londonderry, dissident republicans had also been blamed for the murder of Kevin Kearney in north Belfast.

After delivering a speech at Titanic Belfast yesterday, Mr Cameron was asked about this week’s murders.

He said: “Every murder is a despicable act and the people responsible need to be brought to justice.

“But I think we do need to look at the big picture here in Northern Ireland, which is that there are a tiny minority who want to take the country back but the overwhelming majority want to take the country forward with the shared future agenda,” said the Prime Minister.

He said that senior business figures who he met yesterday from companies such as film maker HBO told him that Northern Ireland was one of the safest countries in which they operate, with a low crime rate.

“You have to look at the bigger picture while condemning appalling murders and making sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”