Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney broke off a speech in Belfast mid-sentence Friday when a hijacked van allegedly containing a bomb was parked outside the venue.
No group claimed responsibility, but loyalist militants who opposed the post-Brexit trade protocol for Northern Ireland released last year did death threats against both Coveney and Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
On Friday at least one unidentified gunman impounded the van on nearby Shankill Road, one of Northern Ireland’s most loyal counties, loaded a canister into the vehicle which the gunman said contained a bomb and forced the driver to hand it over the venue.
“He was ordered at gunpoint to drive a device onto the premises. We had to get the vicar away,” said Gary Donegan, a Catholic priest who helped organize the event with Coveney as the keynote speaker.
Coveney had just commended the late Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and his wife Pat for their “unwavering commitment to principled and peaceful change” when a member of Coveney’s security detail approached and whispered in his ear.
“I – I’m afraid I have to go. I hope I’ll be back in a few minutes. You just have to understand that,” Coveney said before exiting the podium to confused applause.
Later, as a British Army bomb disposal squad prepared to examine the suspicious object in the van using a remote-controlled robot, organizers confirmed the event, which was attended by community leaders from both sides of the Northern Irish division, had been cancelled.
Said Coveney He was “sad and frustrated” that the van driver “was attacked and harassed in this way. My thoughts are with him and his family.”
The bomb threat comes days before the official start Campaigning for the General Election in Northern Ireland in May. Loyalists opposed to the protocol – which considers Northern Ireland to be goods in the EU’s single market and requires EU controls on British goods entering Northern Ireland – have already engaged in sporadic acts of violence to violate the treaty between the UK and the United Kingdom To protest EU and daubed walls in working class Protestant parts of Belfast with threats against Coveney and Varadkar.
In June 2021, a legal platform for banned pro-British groups that Council of Loyalist Communities, accused Dublin of promoting a trade protocol that undermined Northern Ireland’s economic links with Britain. “Until they accept and repair the damage they have caused,” the group warned, “ministers and officials of the Irish Government are no longer welcome in Northern Ireland.”
https://www.politico.eu/article/belfast-bomb-threat-disrupts-irish-foreign-minister-coveney-peace-speech/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Belfast bomb threat disrupts Irish Foreign Secretary's peace speech - POLITICO