Fermanagh bomb attack: PSNI calls for political action after ‘reckless’ incident

Senior officer says dissident republicans were behind the assault close to the Border

The PSNI believes officers were lured to the site of the suspected dissident bomb attack in Co Fermanagh in attempt to kill and injure them. Video: PSNI

 

Dissident republicans were behind the “indiscriminate and reckless” bomb attack close to the Border in Co Fermanagh in a deliberate attempt to kill officers, a senior PSNI officer has said.

PSNI deputy chief constable Stephen Martin appealed for political progress to help resist the threat from dissident republicanism in the wake of Monday’s bomb.

He said it was a deliberate attempt to kill police officers and soldiers from a British army bomb disposal unit.

Mr Martin said the bombing was most likely the work of the Continuity IRA or the New IRA. He suspected that PSNI officers and a team of British army ammunition technical officers were lured to the scene near Newtownbutler in a deliberate attempt to kill and injure them.

Suspicious

Since Sunday they had been dealing with a suspicious device in the area of the Cavan Road at its junction with the Wattle Bridge Road close to the Border with Co Cavan.

Shortly after 10.30am on Monday there an “exceptionally loud explosion” some distance from where the hoax device was located. No one was injured in the explosion. However, Mr Martin said “if a person had been standing convenient to it they would have been very badly injured or possibly killed”.

Mr Martin said he believed dissident republicans were behind Monday’s attack. “The two who have been most active this year in Northern Ireland have been the Continuity IRA and the New IRA, and I think one of those groups would be a very good starting point for the investigation,” he said a press conference at PSNI headquarters in Belfast.

Uncertainty

“The Continuity IRA have been present for a long time, but I think it is fair to say their level of activity has increased this year,” he added.

Mr Martin said there were five dissident attempts to murder police officers this year, one of which resulted in the shooting dead by the New IRA of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry.

“Although this device was intended to kill police and army personnel the fact that it was placed on a main road the result could well have been devastating for anyone in the immediate vicinity,” he said.

Mr Martin acknowledged the “uncertainty” around Brexit but said he had nothing to directly link it to the attack. Mr Martin made clear his belief that the absence of a fully functioning Stormont Executive since January 2017 was contributing to community tensions. Politicians needed to provide leadership to demonstrate to the dissidents that “you do not represent the type of society we want to live in”, he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Boris Johnson spoke by phone yesterday and “reiterated their desire to see the Northern Ireland political institutions reinstated urgently, and agreed to work closely to this end”.