Dissidents suspected as device found in grounds of Belfast school

Holy Cross primary school evacuated after discovery of ‘improvised weapon’ in sewer

Dissident republicans are likely to be behind the "improvised weapon" discovered in the grounds of a primary school in north Belfast, police have said.

Some 300 children had to leave Holy Cross Boys Primary School in north Belfast on Monday after the discovery of suspicious item in a sewer on the grounds.

The school principal Kevin McArevey alerted police to the presence of a bag with wires in it after he and the caretaker had been checking 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,” he told UTV.


“I initially thought it was 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. It immediately aroused my suspicions, so I rang the police.”

On Monday night PSNI Belfast district commander and Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts told reporters the security alert will continue into Tuesday.

“We have recovered what we at this stage assess to be an improvised weapon which has the potential to fire a high calibre round,” he said.

“Our working theory at this time is that this weapon was likely to have been left there by dissident republican terrorists.

“And it was probably destined to be used in an attempt to kill or seriously injure police officers.”

He apologised to schoolchildren and local families but said there will be further disruption on Tuesday to ensure they were “satisfied there is no ongoing risk to children”.

He described leaving the weapon in the area as a “highly stupid act” of “the upmost recklessness” which had been “endangering” children.

“The people who have done this do not represent any kind of cause. They do not represent any section of the community. What they have done is endangered the lives of children.”

‘Cowardly act’

He said it was left “in the immediate area where the youngest children play”.

He appealed for anyone with information to contact the PSNI and said the Terrorism Investigation Unit has launched an investigation.

He would not be drawn on how long the weapon, which he described as “an improvised gun”, which had wires attached to it, may have been there for.

DUP deputy leader and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned those behind the attack. "Those responsible for this cowardly act will unite the community in condemnation. The people of North Belfast stand united in opposition to those wanting to drag us back," he wrote on Twitter.

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said: "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. T hey're happy to put children, parents and school staff at risk.

"No principal and no school should have to experience this. I've been in touch with Mr McArevey to offer our 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. The thugs behind this have nothing to offer the people of Ardoyne and they will not drag us back to the past".

In 2017 a bomb was left outside the gates of the school in what police said was most likely an attempt to target police officers on foot patrol.