Elaborate hoax device condemned as ‘publicity stunt’

December 2, 2013

By Christine Keighery

Local political representatives have united in their condemnation of those behind an elaborate hoax device on Crossmaglen’s Dundalk Road which prompted a protracted security alert which saw the town and surrounding areas brought to a standstill for most of last week.

MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy accused those responsible for planting the device near the North South Electricity Interconnector of indulging in ‘publicity stunts’ and said they were ‘devoid of republicanism’.

“The people responsible for this incident succeeded in closing roads, moving people out of  their homes and ensuring a continuous police presence for three days.  They have no interest in Irish freedom.  Their interests are individual and they care nothing about this community,” said Mr Murphy adding,

“The people of this area are totally opposed to this activity and these people should stop it immediately.”

Local Sinn Fein councillor Terry Hearty echoed those sentiments, highlighting the detrimental effect the prolonged security alert had on local residents and Crossmaglen traders.

Speaking as the alert ended last Friday afternoon, Mr Hearty said,

“The businesses of Crossmaglen should be enjoying the lead up to their busiest trading period but instead the town is deserted as people either cannot gain access due to road closures or they have chosen to stay away due to this negative publicity.

“Local community, sports and business groups strive all year to promote the positive side of Crossmaglen and its people.  This micro group will not undo all of the good work they are engaged in.”

The disruption began on Tuesday when police issued a warning to local residents to be vigilant and not to approach suspicious objects, after they had received a report from an individual using a recognised codeword, that a device had been left in the vicinity of Crossmaglen.

It is understood that on Wednesday evening a beer keg was discovered abandoned beside the North South interconnector which links the electricity grids of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Police sealed off the area, closing the Dundalk Road between Foxfield Road and the border, along with a number of roads in the south Armagh and north Louth areas. PSNI and the Gardai also evacuated a number of residents from their homes and were unable to give any indication at the time as to how long they would be prevented from returning home.

SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Dominic Bradley said those behind the hoax device  “should be ashamed of themselves” for the serious disruption and inconvenience they inflicted on the community.

Mr Bradley said: “This alert went on for almost four days. Thankfully it turned out to be an elaborate hoax, but the disruption it caused was downright disgraceful. This type of action is pointless and serves no purpose whatsoever because the only people suffering are local people.

“Almost daily, in some part of the North, there are communities being held to ransom because of this reckless action.

“If the people orchestrating these attacks on our communities think they’re winning support, they are wrong.

“People are fed up, and I would urge anyone who knows anything about these attacks to contact the police.”

After almost four days of disruption and inconvenience for residents and local businesses, the security operation finally ended on Friday afternoon, with PSNI declaring the device “an elaborate hoax.”  A gas cylinder was taken away from the scene at Dundalk Road for forensic examination.

Speaking at the end of the four day alert, Chief Inspector David Beck said the local community had shown great patience while police carried out searches.

“It is important to condemn those who caused this upset – the overwhelming number of people in the community do not want this type of activity, and we as a police service will continue to work to bring those responsible before the courts.

“I make no apologies for the duration of the policing operation, which resulted in two homes being affected – however, the work, experience and expertise of officers on the ground resulted in a positive outcome.”