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Dissident republicans 'most likely' responsible for suspect device found at Belfast school

The Holy Cross Boys’ school was evacuated as a result of the discovery.

Holy Cross Boys' School, Belfast
Holy Cross Boys' School, Belfast
Image: Google Street View

Updated Sep 23rd 2019, 10:48 PM

A NORTH BELFAST school was evacuated earlier today following the discovery of a suspicious object on its grounds.

At around 2.30pm, police attended the report of a suspicious object found in the grounds of the Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School in north Belfast. 

The school was evacuated as a result of the discovery, made by the school’s principal, Kevin McArevey.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts said the improvised weapon had the “potential to fire a high-calibre round”.

“This weapon was most likely to have been left there by dissident republican terrorists and was destined to be used in an attempt to kill or seriously injure police officers who are serving and protecting the community of north Belfast,” Roberts said. 

The fact that it was left in the grounds of a local primary school shows that those responsible have callous disregard for local children and members of the local community.

Speaking to UTV earlier today, McArevey described the moment he found the suspect device while he was out unblocking the sewers.

“Today I was helping the caretaker unblock the sewers. I lifted a manhole cover … and, to my surprise, I saw a plastic bag with what seemed to be something heavy in it,” McArevey said. 

“I initially thought it was a spade, a small spade, so I lifted it out myself and unravelled the packaging – only to be surprised to see wires at the top of this object,” he said.

It immediately aroused my suspicions, so I rang the police.

Chief Superintendent Roberts has thanked the local community for their “patience and understanding” while the operation continues. 

“I understand that this has caused disruption to the children attending the school, to their parents, to the school staff and the wider community,” he said. 

He added that there is likely to be further disruption to the school tomorrow morning until police can “absolutely satisfy ourselves that there is no risk”.

Roberts slammed the incident as “an act of utmost recklessness and a highly stupid act”. 

Those responsible do not represent any kind of cause; they do not represent any section of the community. They have endangered the lives of children. 

“The weapon was left in the immediate area where the youngest children who attend school would be playing during the course of the school day.”

SDLP north Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon has condemned those behind the suspect device.

“This is disgraceful. To create a device and then hide it in the grounds of a primary school shows how low these people will go and the complete disregard and disrespect they have for the community,” Mallon said.

“No principal and no school should have to experience this,” she said.

Mallon added that she has been in touch with McArevey to offer her full support.

“This school is a proud part of the heart of the community in Ardoyne. The boys who go to it are the future,” she said.

PSNI detectives from the terrorism investigation unit have commenced an investigation into the incident. 

Police are appealing to anyone with information who may have noticed suspicious activity in the area recently to contact detectives on 101, quoting reference 1169 23/09/19. 

Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously to UK Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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