Bomb damage in village put at £2m

 

The sign on the lamp-post stood defiantly over the debris in the small south Armagh town yesterday. "Polling station has been relocated to Newtownhamilton High School," it said. Below lay a carpet of rubble caused by the 200lb bomb left outside the RUC station.

A warning was given by the INLA but there is widespread speculation that the device was made by IRA dissidents.

The North's Minister for Political Affairs, Mr Paul Murphy, arrived to survey the damage, estimated at £2 million. He said the attack would make all democrats work harder for peace.

There was no election buzz in Newtownhamilton. It was a day of torrential rain and depression. Loss adjustors picked their way through the debris.

The community centre, which was to have been the polling station, was devastated like much of the town.

People made their way solemnly to the school to vote.

"I am saddened by this attack," said Michael McCann whose butcher's shop was damaged. "But ordinary people have to stand up for democracy. I voted for candidates committed to peace."

Ms Florence Malcolmson said: "I wasn't planning to vote but I changed my mind. You can't give into terrorism." Others felt differently. "I'm voting DUP. They're the only people who can deal with the terrorists," said one woman. A man whose gift shop was destroyed said voting was "the furthest thing from my mind".

Newtownhamilton is mainly Catholic but the surrounding area is predominantly Protestant.

The only parties outside the polling station were Sinn Fein and the Ulster Independence Movement. Its candidate, Mr Billy Frazer, who has lost five relatives during the Troubles, said the bombing showed "appeasing terrorists" did not work.