Northern Ireland

School evacuated after boy picks up pipe bomb

An eight-year-old boy risked serious injury when he 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.

Police were called and 400 children were moved from the school on Ballymena Road to a nearby church hall.

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.

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."

Brendan's father, Gerard, 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 A viable explosive device 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.

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."

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.

Sinn Féin MLA for South Antrim, Mitchel McLaughlin said those who left the device showed a total disregard for the children's safety.

"We could have been dealing with unbearable tragedy today if this device had gone off," he said.