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New IRA blamed for fireball bomb bid on police officer and young daughter

Rebecca Black, Cate McCurry and David Young, PA
·4-min read

Police have blamed the New IRA for planting a bomb at a police officer’s car beside where her three-year-old daughter sits.

The device left at the part-time female officer’s home near Dungiven, Co Londonderry, was attached to a container of flammable liquid.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan branded the murder bid by the dissident extremists as “despicable and cowardly”.

The device, which did not detonate, was designed to create a fireball, Mr McEwan said.

He said the child’s seat was in the car and the terror group would have been aware of it.

“We will be unrelenting in our efforts in bringing these people to justice,” said the senior officer.

“We believe this group would have known this is where the daughter would sit and they have shown no regard for this whatsoever.

“They know the effect if this device donated, it would have engulfed the car completely and those in it.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan described the incident as ‘cowardly’ (Rebecca Black/PA)

“It’s time for people to examine their conscience. Is this the sort of group they want to support? A group that has shown complete disregard for young people and now we have another callous attack where a mother and a toddler were the potential victims.”

The New IRA is one of the most active dissident republican terrorist groups in Northern Ireland. It was blamed for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee during disorder in Londonderry in 2019.

Formed in 2012, the group has also been blamed for detonating a large car bomb outside the court house in Derry in January 2019, as well as sending parcel bombs to addresses in Great Britain in March of the same year.

Londonderry explosion
Screengrab from CCTV footage dated 19/01/19 issued by the PSNI showing a car bomb exploding outside the court house in Londonderry in January 2019.

The latest target is a woman who is a member of PSNI civilian staff, and also serves as a part-time officer.

The device was discovered at the property in the Ballyquin Road area on Monday.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne tweeted: “I strongly condemn this outrageous attack on our officer and her family.

“Every day @PoliceServiceNI officers and staff bravely step up to serve the community and this attempt to harm is a stark reminder of the challenges still facing us all.”

Mark Lindsay, chair of the police representative body, the Police Federation, said it is “appalling the officer was singled out in this manner”.

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“Her dedication to serving the community is in stark contrast to those involved in this attack, whose only purpose is to wreck lives,” he said.

“There are people in this community who know who planned this attack and placed this potentially lethal device under an officer’s car. They must realise there is nothing to be gained by such attacks and I would call on them to give the police the information they need to capture the culprits.”

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster said: “I stand, as does my entire party, with the brave woman targeted by republicans and utterly condemn those who have sought to harm her and her family.

“I do give thanks that she has survived this dreadful murder attempt and when I spoke to this lady earlier, I gave her my prayerful support and indeed solidarity at this difficult time.

“To the republicans who sought to murder this young mother, your campaign is futile, you will never succeed and whilst there may always be different political views in Northern Ireland, we will keep moving forward and we will not be dragged back by bombers or those who would seek to use the gun to get their own political way.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she also spoke with the officer, adding that the “magnitude of what could have happened to both herself and her young family” is still “sinking in”.

She described the attack as “absolutely deplorable, unacceptable, unjustified and completely wrong”, and said all must “stand together to condemn it”.

“That was the message I wanted to give to the chief constable, but also to those people that are responsible, they need to leave the stage, there is no room for you in society, you are not going to drag people back. What we need to see today is strong condemnation from everybody which, I believe, is the case,” she added.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said: “The attempted murder of this police officer is absolutely abhorrent.

“I completely condemn the actions of those involved. Those who try to attack public servants have nothing to offer the communities they claim to represent.

“I want to convey my support for the officer concerned.”

Irish premier Micheal Martin tweeted: “Deeply reprehensible and cowardly attack on the home of a police officer in Northern Ireland last night. Politicians across this island must work together to avoid a return to the dark days of fear and terror.”