Police investigate Brexit Day plot to bomb Irish Sea ferry
6 February 2020, 16:08 | Updated: 6 February 2020, 22:47
Police in Northern Ireland are investigating what appears to have been a dissident republican plot to blow up an articulated lorry due to cross the Irish Sea by ferry on Brexit night.
Brexiters were celebrating in Parliament Square on 31 January when police in Belfast received a telephone warning that a bomb would explode at the exact time of the UK's departure from the EU.
A security sweep revealed nothing in Belfast and the ferry sailed to Scotland as scheduled - but three days later, after search of 400 vehicles, a device was found on a lorry in Lurgan, 25 miles away.
Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke, who has responsibility for Brexit-related policing, confirmed they had found a "viable device."
He said: "That means it could have caused death and very serious injury and harm to members of the public and those planted this device with their intention of it exploding were reckless."
Unionists said the attempted bombing should be treated the same as any threat to a cross-channel ferry and Northern Ireland's first minister was swift to condemn those behind it.
Arlene Foster MLA said: "Dissident republicans take any opportunity they can get to make a name for themselves and get noticed but this is very concerning and incredibly reckless.
"Given that this lorry was going to travel up our main motorway, go to our main port and possibly be on a ferry, goodness knows when that could have exploded and caused untold damage and loss of life."
Simon Byrne, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, briefed the Northern Ireland Policing Board on the incident at their monthly meeting in Belfast.
Det Supt Wright added: "The only conclusion that we can draw is that, once again, dissident republicans have shown a total disregard for the community, for businesses and for wider society."
Afterwards, Sinn Fein's policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said there could have been "catastrophic loss of life" had the device exploded on the ferry.
It was January last year since dissident republicans - the so-called New IRA - detonated a bomb in a car outside Londonderry Courthouse.
Three months later, during rioting in Derry's Creggan estate, a gunman opened fire on police lines, murdering the journalist Lyra McKee.
Renegade republicans, still pursuing Irish unity by violent means, have limited capability and minimal support but continue to pose what is deemed a severe threat.
Police are appealing for anyone who saw anything suspicious on the estate between 4pm and 10pm on Brexit Day to come forward.
(c) Sky News 2020: Police investigate Brexit Day plot to bomb Irish Sea ferry