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7 September 2006 Edition

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Ard Fheis 'was target of UVF bomb'

BY
BRENDAN KERR

The Lord Mayor of Dublin and his family had to be evacuated from his official residence at the Mansion House last week after a UVF leader told Belfast Telegraph correspondent Brian Rowan that an unexploded bomb, aimed at wiping out the Sinn Féin leadership at the 1981 Ard Fheis, had lain undiscovered for the past 25 years. And the Irish Government had some questions to answer about the 48-hour delay between learning of the claim and moving the mayor and his family to safety.

The Mansion House and a neighbouring restaurant were evacuated on Thursday, 31 August, as Garda sniffer dogs and a detective unit joined an army bomb squad in scouring the building for the loyalist device, said to be concealed in a fire extinguisher and hidden in the roof-space above the speakers' platform. An old extinguisher removed during building renovations some years ago was examined by bomb disposal officers but was declared safe. Further searches revealed nothing.

The 19th century building, the venue for the First Dáil in 1919, used to be the regular venue for Sinn Féin ard fheiseanna. The 1981 Ard Fheis made world headlines with Danny Morrison's famous "Armalite and ballot paper" quote to Sinn Féin delegates, about the need to complement the IRA's armed struggle with revolutionary political action in their communities.

Speaking as the searches of the Mansion House were continuing last week, Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke said:

"During the course of the past 30 years there have been instances where the UVF, working closely with British intelligence agencies, carried out attacks in Dublin. We had the devastating bombs in 1972 and 1974 and Martin Doherty was murdered at the Widow Scallan's bar.

"The culture of concealment surrounding British links with the loyalist paramilitaries needs to end. The Irish Government needs to start demanding answers."

The 48-hour gap between the Dublin authorities being told of the UVF leader's statement and taking action prompted calls for an explanation from Lord Mayor Vincent Jackson.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell claimed that there had been no delay while, at the same time, admitting that his department had first received the information two days before the army and Garda searches began.

Caps

o Members of the Gardaí and Army outside the rear of the Mansion House, Dublin, where a suspect device or bomb is believed to be inside the building, which was planted there in 1981

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