Horror and anger over church hall bomb stash

PEOPLE in Dunloy have spoken of their horror and anger at the news that a stash of bombs, discovered in the roof of St Joseph’s Parish Centre in the village, were probably there for years.

The bombs were uncovered by workers in an area of the roof near the main front door of the building and are believed to have been there dating back as far as the 1980s and the height of the Troubles.

But since that time thousands of people will have unwittingly passed by close to the devices.

A security forces source told the Times said that whoever chose to place the items in that location were putting people in danger.

“Anything that contains explosives, especially not in a controlled environment, has the potential to be unstable and a risk,” the source said.

One theory being examined by police is that the devices were being stored by mainstream Republican groups during the Troubles and that the hall was deliberately selected as a storage place as it was a place that would be “sensitive” in terms of searches by the security forces at that time.

Local people - some who use the hall numerous times - were shocked that the devices were placed where they were and some are angry that people were put in danger.

One local told the Times: “People are angry that lives were put at risk and that people would consider storing explosive devices in such a place where the public - men women and children - are in and out all the time. Local people will be asking many questions of the Republican community.

The devices were discovered on Tuesday October 9 and a PSNI spokesperson confirmed a number of “viable bombs” were found in the church hall,

Army bomb squad officers were called in and the area was sealed off.

A statement said: “Several suspicious items discovered at St Joseph’s Parish Hall on Tuesday have been made safe and removed by the PSNI for further examination.

“During the alert, Police were in regular contact with the local clergy and elected representatives and although Bridge Road was closed for a time on Tuesday evening, disruption to the community was kept to a minimum.

“Police believe that while they were viable devices they may have been there for a considerable period of time. It is not believed the devices were intended for an attack on the Parish Hall, the nearby church, local community or police officers who on occasions use the hall for meetings to discuss local concerns.”

Dunloy Parish Priest, Father Aidan Brankin, said he was “shocked” to learn there had been bombs sitting for many years close to a room where meetings are held.

“It was a big shock. You think of the workers when they were taking the roof off the front part of the building and they found this - a bucket with devices in it.

“The fear we all had ... thank goodness the area was safe and sound, but that it was a device from many, many years ago, which is good in one way but disturbing too because we’ve had meetings up in that room these last few years.”