Bomb squad puts on show for crowd of tourists in Dublin

Suspect device near Christ Church Cathedral found to be flower and firework in envelope

The  gardaí and the Defence Forces’ Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit attend an incident near Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Collins

The gardaí and the Defence Forces’ Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit attend an incident near Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Collins

 

Dozens of tourists and Dublin office workers were treated to a demonstration of Ireland’s bomb disposal capabilities on Monday, courtesy of a Halloween firework.

There was little fear among the crowds that gathered at either end of Christchurch Place, outside Christ Church Cathedral on Monday afternoon. Their most pressing concern was finding a good spot to shoot some smartphone footage of the bomb squad in action.

The Defence Forces’ Explosive Ordnance Disposal team does not like the limelight. Although they are called to dozens of incidents a year, most operations take place in less conspicuous locations.

Its members were therefore probably less than thrilled at being captured in dozens of photographs and videos, some of which were immediately uploaded to social media.

The Defence Forces later sent out a request to media outlets not to use images or video showing the faces of the team.

The events began at around 1pm when a member of the public heard a bang coming from a bin on Christchurch Place, beside the railings of the cathedral.

Gardaí were alerted and a decision was immediately made to treat the incident as a potential explosive threat. Gardaí and the Defence Forces, as part of previous planning exercises, have identified Christ Church Cathedral as a potential target of a terrorist attack in Dublin.

A few minutes later a priest told tourists and workers in the cathedral that they had to evacuate as gardaí blocked off both ends of Christchurch Place.

The bomb disposal team arrived just after 2pm, and armed soldiers were deployed to either end of the street to provide security. Their first job was to see what they were dealing with.

Blast suit

Officially the team were there to conduct a “post-blast analysis”, not to defuse a device. But they had no way of knowing if there were further explosives in the bin. The main fear was that someone had placed a viable bomb there and it had only partly detonated.

A Reacher robot, guided by a technician via remote control, was deployed first. It trundled up to the site before using its telescopic arm to fish rubbish from the bin as it searched for the device, all the while feeding video back to its operator.

It was then decided a technician would approach the site to conduct a further examination. The team retrieved the blast suit – large green armour designed to shield operatives from the worst effects of a bomb – and helped the technician into it.

He changed into the suit behind the team’s armoured green van, somewhat shielded from the growing crowd of onlookers, before walking some 50m to the bin.

There, as dozens of smartphone cameras snapped away, he used a mirror on a telescopic stick to check for tripwires or other booby traps around the bin. He then retrieved the charred remnants of the “bomb” and placed it in an evidence bag.

Brown envelope

Analysis later showed the device was a brown paper envelope containing the remnants of a firework, a flower and a piece of paper with some text on it. “It looked like something designed to scare the shit out of you,” a security source said. “But it wouldn’t do much damage unless you had your hands around it.”

The job nearly done, the team then packed up their robot and blast suit. Ambulances and saloons carrying detectives continued to arrive even after the scene was declared safe at 3pm.

The crowd quickly thinned out. “I have to get back to work,” a woman exclaimed after realising she had taken a two-hour lunch break. Most of those who remained were tourists wondering if their tickets to visit the cathedral were still valid.

The scene was then handed over to the Garda for forensic analysis. Detectives will now seek to establish whether the placing of the firework was a bizarre prank or something more sinister.