Why bomb a golf course?
In Strabane, there are several theories about an explosive device discovered on a golf course on Monday morning. But all agree it wasn’t an attack on golfers
Investigations: a forensics team at Ballycolman Road beside the third green at Strabane Golf Club, where an explosive device was discovered on Monday. Photograph: Trevor McBride
Troubled times: an RUC and British army checkpoint in Strabane, in 1978. It was among the most bombed towns in the North. Photograph: Alain le Garsmeur/Getty
Last Monday morning a golfer discovered an unusual-looking object on the third green of Strabane Golf Club, in Co Tyrone. It turned out to be an explosive device that, according to the PSNI, could have destroyed everything within a 20-metre radius.
Following the discovery the PSNI chief inspector, Andy Lemon, said: “While police may have been the intended target, golfers, ground staff or members of the community passing by could have been killed or maimed.”
But why would somebody attack a golf course? The consensus now among PSNI, republicans and local people is that nobody did.
Tommy Forbes, the public relations officer for the golf club, says that on Sunday night the club received a report of disturbance. A short time later a member of the public contacted the police after being approached by two men who identified themselves as dissident republicans. The dissidents said they had left a device in the Ballycolman Road area.
The PSNI placed the area on alert, but did not evacuate it, and began a search. The next morning, says Forbes, a golfer at the third green found what the security forces had been looking for.
After the security forces arrived, Ronnie Wiley, another club member who was playing at the time, almost walked into the area where the device was being defused. It looked like “the inside of a golf-cart engine”, Wiley said. The PSNI said it comprised “nuts and bolts packed into a pipe with explosives”.
Forbes says club members are both upset and surprised at the idea that they would be targeted. “Strabane Golf Club has a long record of cross-community engagement. It’s a nice place for people to go and relax. It’s very down to earth. It’s not like some fancy club in Dublin.”
Everybody T he Irish Times approaches in Strabane condemns what happened, but only Forbes will consent to his name being printed.
The Irish Times is directed to the house of a local community activist in a staunchly republican neighbourhood, where people are friendly to a stranger but the houses are in need of repair, and rubbish and graffiti abound. The activist refuses to identify himself publicly because he doesn’t want “his car set on fire”.
“Everyone feels the same,” he says. “You meet 100 people here, and they’ll tell you it’s awful what happened this week. But [they’ll only say that] in private.” He says people now have other concerns, apart from the republican cause. “Of course everyone wants to reunite with Ireland but the main concerns now are jobs, health and stopping the emigration.”
The Strabane Chronicle carried a front-page editorial denouncing the laying of the device. The paper appealed to the dissidents to let the town better itself.
Strabane has some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in Northern Ireland. During the Troubles it was among the most bombed places in Northern Ireland. Now there are plans to rejuvenate the town. The activist mentions an announcement this week to invest £3.7 million (€4.5 million) in Strabane’s centre.
But the purpose of the device –