Irish Republican News · January 26, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Children targeted by UDA booby-trap; Ahern meets UDA

Children escaped serious injury yesterday when an apparent booby-trap device, which had the potential to kill, failed to ignite at a west Belfast sports club.

The UDA was blamed for attaching a device made from a distress flare to a gate of Lamh Dhearg GAA Gaelic sports club on the Upper Springfield Road in Hannahstown.

Around 40 children aged between 10 and 14 years old passed through the gate for training at 11.30am, unaware the device was hidden under foliage. The device was discovered just before 1pm by a club official.

The device, which was attached to the gate by string, had been designed to ignite and explode when the gate was opened.

A PSNI police spokesman described the device as viable and added that had it been activated it had the potential to kill.

``The placing of the device was a despicable act especially as a large number of children were in the vicinity at the time it was discovered. This is an act which should be condemned by the whole community,'' he said.

A spokesman for the club said he was disgusted that children had now been turned into targets.

``The children had been training from 11.30am and were just about to go in and finish when one of the club members found the device beside the gate, he lifted it up and noticed there was something coming out of it,'' he said.

``It was very alarming as there has been various attacks on this club over the years.

``All we could do was wait for the police, who told us the device was life threatening. It was just attached to the gate for either a club member or a child to open the gates, it is just horrific,'' the spokesman added.

``We are worried this could be the start of things to come.''

Sinn Féin assembly member Bairbre de Brun blamed loyalist paramilitaries for the ``appalling attack''.

``Underage teams train at the Lamh Dhearg pitch each Sunday,'' she said.

``I have no doubt that unionist paramilitaries are behind this incident. There has been a history of attacks on this club over many years.

``It is only through good fortune that this device was discovered and people in west Belfast are angry at this attack on our young people.

``Those responsible deliberately decided to target a sports facility which they knew was used by children,'' she added.


Meanwhile, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern is holding talks today with representatives of the UDA.

Mr Ahern is meeting the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), which represents the UDA, at a secret location in Dublin.

British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy will also meet the UPRG next week.

The UPRG are expected to express concerns about the peace process and the ongoing dispute over segregation of prisoners at Maghaberry Prison.

The UDA is reportedly considering withdrawing from the Loyalist Commission, an umbrella group for unionist paramilitary groups, as well as Protestant clerics, community workers and unionist politicians.

It is understood that the UDA has also attempted to persuade the rival UVF to leave the body and re-establish the defunct Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) which operated in the 1990s.

A spokesperson for the UDA said there was a lack of recognition given to the work the UDA was doing in the community.

``These meetings show that people are starting to take us seriously and they will help us put across the concerns felt in loyalist communities,'' said Frank McCoubrey.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News