Simon Coveney resumes Belfast speech disrupted by hoax bomb
An Irish government minister forced to evacuate from a peace-building event in Belfast following a bomb threat has returned to complete his speech.
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Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney branded the security alert in March, a « futile and cowardly exercise ».
Mr Coveney had been speaking at an event organised by the John and Pat Hume Foundation.
The Houben Centre on the Crumlin Road was evacuated and a funeral service at nearby Holy Cross church was disrupted.
An electrician was hijacked at gunpoint and told to drive what he believed to be a live bomb to the centre in his van.
A controlled explosion was carried out and police later declared the security alert a hoax.
Mr Coveney returned to the Houben Centre on Wednesday to speak at the rescheduled event.
The Fine Gael politician said he was « genuinely sorry » his previous visit ended the way it did.
« That was a futile, cowardly exercise in community control, » he said.
« It serves no-one, no good purpose, except to drag the reputation of this decent community backwards to darker days.
« For God’s sake, in this day and age we should be beyond having to call out paramilitarism and its role in society in Northern Ireland. »
The event had been organised by the John and Pat Hume Foundation, which was established in honour of the Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and his wife.
The Houben Centre is located at the interface of the Ardoyne and Shankill – it operates as a cross-community centre and also the parish centre for the Holy Cross church.