Northern Ireland

Father's shock after son picks up pipe bomb

A father has spoken of his shock after his eight-year-old son picked up a pipe bomb in a school playground in Antrim.

Brendan Shannon, 8, from St Comgall's Primary School lifted what police confirmed was a viable device and brought it into the classroom.

His father, Gerard, said he was relieved his son was safe and spoke of the need to alert children to the dangers of picking up objects.

Police have condemned those responsible for leaving the pipe bomb on Monday.

They said that, at this stage, they did not know who left the pipe bomb at St Comgall's or whether or not primary school children were being deliberately targeted in the Antrim area.

Mr Shannon said his son had promised not to pick up any object like it again.

Earlier on Monday, Brendan Shannon said he found what looked like a "golden pipe thing" in the playground at St Comgall's when he arrived for school.

"I just got off my bike and just touched it to see if it was okay," he said.

"Then I just lifted it up."

Mr Shannon said the consequences could have been very serious.

"I was very worried and very scared when I heard that my son had gone out into the playground, saw something and lifted it up. I am trying not to think of what the consequences could have been."

St Comgall's headteacher Hilary Cush said he was outraged that an explosive device should be left for children to find.

Image caption The pipe bomb was found at St Comgall's Primary School

"It's absolutely crazy. It's unbelievable that innocent children should be caught up in something like this," he said.

There was a second alert at St Joseph's Primary School in Antrim on Monday.

It followed a telephone warning to a local media outlet. Nothing was found.

Both alerts have now ended.

A search of St Joseph's at Greystone Road began at about 1030 BST. Pupils, including a nursery section, were moved to a nearby parish hall.

PSNI Chief Inspector Simon Walls, area commander for the district, has condemned those responsible for the alerts.

"I cannot express enough my disgust at the cowards involved in these alerts today.

"To target the general public is never acceptable by any means but to take away the secure feelings of innocent children and to put them at risk like this is beyond despicable.

"It is by sheer good fortune that we are not dealing with a severely injured child right now."

Education Minister Caitiona Ruane said children's lives had been put at risk.

"At the start of a new school year, when some children are attending for the first time, this has caused unnecessary fear and disruption in settings which should give a sense of safety to the children and all school staff," she said.

William McCrea, the Democratic Unionist Party MP for South Antrim, said the incident "was obscene and an utter disgrace".

He added: "It proves just how depraved some of those who want to drag Northern Ireland backwards are.

"To target a primary school and to put innocent children at risk is plumbing new depths."

SDLP South Antrim MLA Thomas Burns said: "There is obviously a group which is determined to cause mayhem in our town with these regular pipe bomb incidents, and until we know otherwise, we have to operate on the basis that they are prepared to cause murder as well."