Security alerts fail to deter police recruitment events

Students and staff at Belfast metropolitan College at Millfield were evacuated
Students and staff at Belfast metropolitan College at Millfield were evacuated

Police recruitment events are set to go ahead despite a number of security alerts targeting the venues which are due to host them.

The venues were all evacuated and cordoned off as police investigated the suspected bomb alerts, which are thought to be the work of dissident republicans.

Belfast Metroplitan College at Titanic Quarter was also evacuated after a security alert

Belfast Metroplitan College at Titanic Quarter was also evacuated after a security alert

At around 12.30pm on Friday, the PSNI said incidents were underway at Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, the Waterfoot Hotel in Londonderry and the Belfast Metropolitan College (Met) campus at Millfield, north Belfast.

All three are venues for PSNI recruitment sessions, which were all originally set to be held at 10am on Saturday.

The police said on Friday night that two of the events – the ones in Belfast and Omagh – are to continue as scheduled.

Additionally, the Titanic Quarter Met campus was also subject to a brief security alert at around the same time in the afternoon, although it was not due to host any events.

A spokeswoman for the college said the security operation caused disruption for “several hundred” students.

At close to 6pm, the PSNI announced a controlled explosion had been carried out on a suspicious object in the grounds of the Waterfoot Hotel, which turned out to be an “elaborate hoax”.

It then said in a statement at 8pm: “Police remain at the sene in Derry and the alerts in Omagh and Belfast unfortunately look set to continue into the night.

“We have been working closely with the venues who are hosting the events and the two planned for Omagh and Belfast tomorrow, will go ahead as scheduled.”

However, a decision to postpone the Londonderry event had already been taken before the bomb alerts surfaced.

This is because of a protest which was planned by republicans to co-incide with the PSNI event.

Since a wedding was also scheduled at the hotel, a decision was taken to move the event to October 17 so as not to ruin the celebrations.

As of late on Friday, the BBC was reporting that the Belfast alert was over, but there was no confirmation on the status of this or the Omagh alert from police.

All the main political parties, including Sinn Fein, condemned the alerts.

The DUP’s Jonathan Craig said: “Suspicions for these alerts will obviously fall on dissident republicans, but the response to the recent PSNI recruitment campaign is a positive sign that they will not be successful in dragging us back.”

The UUP’s Ross Hussey said: “I’m disgusted to hear that republican terrorists have targeted centres of tourism, arts and education to try and highlight their warped views. The fact that they have chosen these venues smacks of fascism.”

The PSNI itself described the security alerts as “shameless acts that demonstrate no regard for the people living and working in these areas and have been designed to disrupt communities”.

For information on police recruitment, go to: www.joinpsni.co.uk