Sittings resume at Smithfield court following controlled explosion

Courts Service express serious concern at hoax bomb incident

The scene in Smithfield, Dublin near the Law Library where Gardai have sealed off access to the area due to a major security incident sparked by a man wielding what is believed to be an explosive device. Video: Kathleen Harris


The Courts Service has expressed serious concern at how a man was able to enter a family court in Dublin today claiming to have a gun and an explosive device.

The incident occurred just after 11am on Thursday during a family law court hearing in the Phoenix House complex in Smithfield, Dublin.

As a case being heard by Judge Susan Ryan in the Circuit Family Court got under way, he took what he claimed was a gun out of a bag and said he had a bomb under his coat.

Gardaí believe the gun was an imitation, or possibly an airsoft gun, and that the device, which was hanging around his neck and was concealed under his coat, was a hoax.

All sittings at the court have now resumed. The Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit carried out a controlled explosion on a suspect device which has now been removed from the scene for further examination.

Sources said the suspect is a middle-aged man involved in the business world and that he appeared to be motivated by a grievance he had with the courts. He surrendered to armed gardaí after a short period.

“The Courts Service is very concerned at the nature of this incident, and is thankful that all our colleagues and the public remained safe,” a spokesman for the Courts Service said this afternoon.

“This incident highlights the need to constantly keep courthouse security under review - in terms of both a Garda presence and appropriate security at each court sitting”.

He said gardaí arrived within a very short period of time and a search of the building is continuing.

Neither Phoenix House or Dolphin House, the other main Dublin family court venue, have security checks at the entrance.

Gardaí at the scene of the incident in Dublin’s Smithfield
Gardaí at the scene of the incident in Dublin’s Smithfield

New complex

A centralised family law complex is planned for Hammond Lane, a site beside Phoenix House. The Courts Service said this complex will have “airport style security” similar to that in operation at the Four Courts and the Criminal Courts of Justice.

However the complex has yet to receive funding approval from the Government.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan noted today’s incident “with great concern”.

“While thankful that nobody involved was injured, I am nonetheless conscious of the impact on the Judge, Court personnel and all others who were in the Court at the time.”

He said the security of the Courts and its users is “of the highest priority for me. The Courts play a fundamental role in our justice system and must always be able to operate without hindrance.”

“I commend the Gardaí for their swift actions in response to the incident that unfolded. The matter is now the subject of a Garda investigation.”

When the suspect disrupted the proceedings this morning he was shouting loudly and making threats while also claiming to have a gun and an explosive device. At least two other people were held in the court room during the incident.

Nearby gardaí were quickly alerted. The Garda’s Armed Response Unit, which patrols Dublin’s streets as a matter of course, sped to the scene.

'Very shaken'

One source said when the armed gardaí arrived and the man inside the court saw them, he came out and surrendered.

A number of people who were in the court at the time were said to be “very shaken” by the experience.

These included the judge, a clerk of the court, lawyers and the man’s ex partner, believed to be his ex-wife. They remained in the court until gardaí arrived.

Video footage showed Judge Ryan being taken from the scene in a very distressed state.

The building where the incident occurred, which includes court rooms and offices, was evacuated and a large section of Smithfield in the north inner city was sealed off.

The Army’s bomb disposal team was at the scene on Thursday afternoon checking the device that the man said was explosive.

The suspect was being questioned at the Bridewell Garda station close to the court house. The incident disrupted the Luas service and the movement of traffic and pedestrians but all routes have now reopened.