Bomb case shows we may need bus security scanners: union leader

Liam Gallagher from Unite union expressed horror over the incident
Liam Gallagher from Unite union expressed horror over the incident

The head of a large-scale trade union has suggested that a wholesale review of security should be done after a man was caught bringing TNT on to a Dublin-to-Londonderry bus service.

Liam Gallagher, Irish chairman of trade union Unite and secretary of the Derry Trades Union Council, said that security measures such as scanners may now be considered after the incident – the second within several months which has seen republican munitions transported from Dublin to Northern Ireland by bus.

Alderman Drew Thompson

Alderman Drew Thompson

He was speaking after Patrick Brennan, a former IRA convict from west Dublin, was jailed for his role in the explosives plot.

Read more about the extraordinary case here.

In a separate case in September 2016, Vincent Kelly, a 31-year-old man formerly of Hawthorn Street in Belfast, was jailed after being caught with a PPS43 submachine gun, three magazines, and 50 rounds of ammunition shortly after getting off a Dublin-to-Belfast bus.

Mr Gallagher, whose union represents bus and transport workers among others, said: “There’s an awful lot of anger these organisations – whoever they are, dissidents or whatever they like to term themselves – were going to use public transport and endanger staff and members of the public...

Kieran Conway, ex-IRA director of intelligence, pictured on BBC HARDTALK in October

Kieran Conway, ex-IRA director of intelligence, pictured on BBC HARDTALK in October

“The fact he [Brennan] was actually on the bus with that amount of explosives is horrifying.

“You think of the potential of what could have happened there in terms of lives that could’ve been lost – an absolutely horrifying prospect – and I think it’s only right and proper that the public and indeed those who provide the service are given reassurance as to what’s going to happen in terms of future security.”

He added: “That may involve the possibility of looking at scanning passengers, scanning luggage... There really has to be a risk assessment carried out, an urgent risk assessment, to allay the fears of the public.”

Alderman Drew Thompson, DUP representative for the unionist-dominated Waterside in east Londonderry city, said Brennan’s failed courier run could have been “catastrophic”.

“It shows you [the lengths] people will go to, to try and still take us back to what we call the dark ages; that there’s still people prepared to have destruction in our city, and cause mayhem,” he said.

He believed the seven-year term was “fairly lenient” however, and that a sentence of perhaps 10 to 12 years might have been more apt.

The News Letter has repeatedly highlighted lenient sentences given to dissidents in recent weeks – see this trio of cases, or the case of current fugitive Damien McLaughlin.

According to previous media reports of the bomb-on-the-bus case, Brennan was represented in court by former IRA man Kieran Conway, who now works as a lawyer despite admitting widespread criminal activity during the Troubles.

Read more about Conway’s admissions of IRA activities here.