Irish bomb squad called to package sent by ‘oddballs’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has condemned the perpetrators who sent a suspicious package to a government building.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 10:05 pm
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 11:10 pm
Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

The Defence Forces bomb disposal team was called out to deal with what was believed to be hazardous material at the Department of Health.

Staff had to be evacuated from the building at lunchtime on Monday.

“I understand there was a suspicious package opened at the department and the hazmat people checked it out and its been given the all-clear now,” Mr Varadkar said.

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“I haven’t been able to speak to Minister (Simon) Harris or his team yet but my particular concerns would be for the staff in the department who open the mail.

“I’m not sure what kind of oddballs send suspicious packages in the post but they should be well aware that it is not politicians opening the mail, it’s people doing a normal job, a receptionist or a security guard or clerical officer or someone in the constituency team.

“If you want to come after us, come after us, but don’t come after our staff or our families.”

The Defence Forces confirmed the bomb disposal unit was deployed to the scene at around 12.20pm and could be seen entering the building in protective chemical suits.

In a statement, a Defence Forces spokesman said: “An envelope containing a powder was inspected on site and deemed non-hazardous by technicians.

“It was then handed over to An Garda Siochana for further examination.

“The scene was declared safe and the team departed at 2.30pm.

“Should members of the public encounter suspicious items, or potentially hazardous substances, they are advised to maintain a safe distance and inform the gardai.”

A statement published on social media by the Department of Health confirmed staff had been evacuated by emergency services.

“We have been informed by emergency services that our office building will not be reopened for some time.

“All staff should now go home today and monitor this account for further updates.”

Despite the health department evacuation, staff could still be seen inside nearby businesses, including shops and cafes, behind the Garda cordon.

At least five fire engines went to the scene, along with ambulance staff and a number of Gardai support vehicles.

The Defence Forces Army Bomb Disposal unit also kept a number of vehicles present on site.

The government building in Dublin reopened a few hours later after the envelope containing white powder was deemed non-hazardous.

The potential threat comes just weeks after protesters gathered outside the home of Simon Harris in Co Wicklow to protest over their dissatisfaction with the Health Minister.

The peaceful protest was broken up voluntarily after gardai arrived on the scene but Mr Harris, who was at home at the time with his wife and baby daughter, said the ordeal was “frightening” for his family.

Traffic across the busy Dublin city centre area suffered major disruption due to the incident as a considerable length of Baggot Street was closed off and public transport diverted.