News

‘Disgust’ over suspicious items left at school gates

Thursday, 7 September 2017

‘Disgust’ over suspicious items left at school gates thumbnailPupils and staff from St Paul's Primary School on the Lisnarick Road in Irvinestown were evacuated on Monday morning after a suspicious item was spotted at the school gates. Police sealed off the immediate area for a time.

School evacuated on first day of new term

 

PUPILS at St Paul's Primary and Nursery School, Irvinestown, were 'delighted' to be back at school yesterday (Tuesday) - only 24 hours after they were sent home on the first day of the new term following a security alert.

Children had just been settling into their classrooms when the school had to be evacuated shortly after 9am after suspicious items were spotted.

A police spokesperson said a plastic bottle had been tied to the gate at the school, along with a note which read: "There is a bomb in the school". However, on inspection of the premises, no such device was found. Furthermore, there were two plastic bottles also found close to the school grounds. It is understood all three bottles were filled with petrol.

Pupils were escorted to the nearby St Mary's College where they were collected by parents.

Principal, Anne Molloy, said that while it wasn't an "ideal start" to the new term, staff and parents were grateful the pupils were "safe and sound".

"The staff took the day in their stride - they kept very calm as they led the children down to nearby St Mary's. Parents were sent a text message and the children were soon collected," explained the principal.

"The children didn't realise anything was going on - they thought they were going down to St Mary's for a walk as we have a very close relationship with the school.

"All the children are delighted to be back today (Tuesday). The parents were delighted with how the school handled the situation, that children weren't distressed. Yes, some parents were annoyed but were grateful the children were safe and sound.

"It wasn't the way we wanted to start the school year - it certainly wasn't ideal - but the bottom line is that the children are safe and well and were evacuated in a calm manner."

The principal went on to praise the community spirit in the town.

"There is a fantastic community spirit in Irvinestown and it wasn't long before George Beacom, from the Bawnacre Centre, and Joe Mahon, from Mahon's Hotel, were calling to offer accommodation."

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA., Rosemary Barton, and local councillor, Diana Armstrong, have slammed those responsible for the security alert.

Mrs Barton said: "It is disgraceful in today's society that people want to put the lives of children at risk, or even disrupt their daily routine and education.

"The mindset of such individuals is something that is not wanted within our society, the community should not give any support to these people, indeed they should go further and report them to the authorities."

Diana Armstrong said: "Sadly there have been a number of incidents in the Irvinestown area recently. I have no idea if they are all linked, but I would encourage the public to support the police in these matters.

"I trust this matter will be dealt with as speedily as possible by the security services and that the children involved will not be traumatised."

Erne North councillor, Raymond Farrell, said: "In a week when young children and new beginners are getting settled into their new school environment this sort of activity is totally unacceptable."

Meanwhile, speaking after the security alert had ended, Erne West councillor, Anthony Feely, said: "I was in Irvinestown to speak with the police and make sure all the school children were safe. It was a relief to know that there was no actual viable device.

"I am disgusted that any group or individual would do this anywhere, but to involve a primary school is beyond belief. The people who put up this warning beside St Paul's PS have nothing to offer the community of Irvinestown. The people of Irvinestown totally reject these actions and the sooner the perpetrators get the message the better."

Appealing for witnesses, Inspector Rory Hoy said: "When it comes to public safety we cannot take chances, and we would like to thank local people and the wider community in Irvinestown for their patience and understanding throughout the operation.

"I would appeal for anyone with information about this incident to please contact us. It is only with your help that we can make our communities safer.

"Anyone who knows anything about this incident, or who saw any unusual activity in the area is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 202 of 04/09/17.

Alternatively, information can be passed anonymously through the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111."

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