Protest staged in Finaghy following security alert

Residents gathered outside a south Belfast primary school on Monday to condemn a security alert at the site last week.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 9:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 2:51 pm

Finaghy Primary School was forced to close on Friday, May 14 after an individual contacted the charity Crimestoppers and said a device had been left within “the vicinity” of the school.

Click here to read Security alert at NI primary school ends as PSNI declare incident a hoax

Around 30 people, including community and political representatives, gathered at the Finaghy Road South entrance at the school’s campus on May 17 to show their opposition to the recent incident.

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Jamie Moore and Leah Djalo organised the event.

The peaceful protest, which adhered to current Covid-19 restrictions, was organised by members of Finaghy Community Association.

Speaking to this newspaper, Leah Djalo, a mother of four Finaghy PS students, said: “Our children have already suffered so much over the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and this hoax alert on Friday, along with the security alert in September, has really been terrifying for them.

“My children wanted to come back to school after being out of the classroom during the lockdown and the security alert has caused a lot of distress.

“There are refugees who attend Finaghy Primary and I understand Friday’s incident was traumatic for many of these people.

“We don’t know who is behind these incidents, but whoever it is, I am pleading with them to stop. They are only causing distress to the children.

“I would like to praise the teachers and school staff who have been amazing during all of this. They have helped our children through it.”

Community association member, Jamie Moore, added: “This is a very close knit community. The pandemic has brought us closer together and we’ve supported our vulnerable neighbours and those in need.

“The security alerts at the school have helped bring us together and we are wanting to show our opposition to the threats. Our children have suffered enough this year and whoever is behind these incidents needs to stop.”

Balmoral DUP councillors Gareth Spratt and Sarah Bunting also attended the event and listened to concerns from the residents.

Speaking to the News Letter, Cllr Spratt said: “Friday’s incident was a despicable act and amounts to child abuse. It caused disruption for children, their parents and the teaching staff. The community has been left frustrated by these actions.

“Children have missed so much schooling over the past year and are now happy to be back in the classroom. They can’t afford to miss any more time out of school.

“I would call on whoever is responsible for these security alerts to stop and think of the pupils. There is no purpose for these incidents.”

Echoing these sentiments, Cllr Bunting explained: “Finaghy is a tight knit community and during the pandemic the best of the community has been on display, whether that be helping at the food bank or helping vulnerable neighbours who have been unable to leabe their homes.

“Incidents like the security alert on Friday are a huge waste of police time and resources. Police are being taken away from other emergency situations and it’s not fair on the community.

“I would appeal to those behind the alerts to stop what you’re doing. The police response has been great and their efforts should be praised. I would call on anyone with information about Friday’s security alert to contact the PSNI on 101.”

Police attended the protest on Monday and enquiries into Friday’s security alert are continuing.

Inspector McKay said: “Officers attended and the group, who adhered to social distancing, dispersed soon after.

“The group had gathered in response to a report, on Friday morning (May 14), that a device had been left in the area of Finaghy Primary School.

“The incident, later declared a hoax, has understandably caused distress to all concerned.

“This was a malicious act, which caused massive disruption to young children, parents, teachers, staff and the wider community. It came at a time when pupils were trying to get back to some sort of normality.

“Our enquiries continue, and I would reiterate our appeal to anyone with information to contact us on 101, quoting reference 162 of 14/05/21.”

Information can also be provided to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org

A security alert also caused disruption at the school in September. For more on this story, read here

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