Bomb squad called to 26 security alerts in Mid Ulster

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The bomb squad has been called out 26 times to the Mid Ulster district over the past three years, it has been revealed.

Almost all the call outs were hoaxes, but one was recorded as a viable device, figures, which, reassuringly, are the lowest for any council area in the North.

Nearly two decades after the Good Friday Agreement, there is still an average of four bomb scares every week across Northern Ireland.

The vast majority are hoaxes, causing massive disruption costing millions of pounds.

Police figures show there have been 680 security alerts in NI since January 2013.

In the first 10 months of the year, 202 alerts were recorded - more than one every other day.

Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said they suggested Northern Ireland had not left the past behind.

“Each of these alerts causes major disruption and gives the perception to the wider world that we still have huge problems,” she added.

The Police Federation, the body which represents PSNI officers, branded the figures “disgraceful”.

Experts dealt with 151 viable devices between January 2013 and October this year.

Over a third (60) were in the Belfast area. A further 34 were in the Derry and Strabane region.

There were a further 529 hoax alerts across Northern Ireland in the same period.

Again, most were in Belfast and the north-west.

Each incident may involve more than one device. They do not include petrol bombs or incendiaries.

Mrs Kelly said security alerts had caused serious disruption in her hometown of Lurgan.

“Every one of these causes major disruption and costs a lot of money,” she added.

“It is also a drain on police resources, which could be much better used.

“Unfortunately every one has to be taken seriously because a number of devices have been found to be viable.”

Mrs Kelly also told how she was shocked by the high number of security alerts.

“It is a quite shocking figure - more than one every other day of the year,” she added.

“Those responsible - whether it is dissidents or whoever - need to think about the impact these have on their communities. It is an evil thing to do.”

The PSNI said that dealing with alerts and keeping people safe used up a huge amount of resources.

A spokesman for the force added: “Security alerts often cause a great deal of disruption to the community and divert police resources away from the incidents and crimes which affect people in a local area.

“These alerts cause massive inconvenience for the communities where they happen.

“Scores of local people - many of them elderly or families with young children - have to leave their homes, sometimes late at night or in the early hours of the morning, leaving their beds to take shelter in local leisure and community centres.”

Police said that while they understood the disruption security alerts cause, the safety of the community and officers must come first.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland added: “In the case of viable devices, they are not just attacks on the intended target.

“They place the lives of every man, woman and child in the area at risk.”