The arrival of Santa at Guildhall Square was disrupted on one of the busiest shopping days in the run-up to Christmas on Saturday by a hoax bomb attack in Derry’s city centre.
Army technical officers carried out a controlled explosion in Victoria Market car park on Saturday after part of the city centre was closed down. Traffic and shopping in the areas were disrupted all morning and the hoax attack has been condemned by local politicians.
The area around the car park was closed off to traffic including the entrance to the multi-story car park at Quayside Shopping Centre.
The row of shops at the top of the Strand Road up to Guildhall Square directly behind Victoria Market all had their shutters down and police sealed the area off.
A police spokesman said: “A suspicious package was discovered in Victoria Car Park and Foyle Embankment and Police Court Street were closed to traffic.
“Army technical officers were called to the scene and a controlled explosion was carried out.
“They declared it to be a hoax and the area was later reopened to traffic.”
Sinn Fein councillor Mickey Cooper said these continuing bomb alerts in the city were achieving nothing.
“The people of Derry are sick and tired of having their lives disrupted by this carry on; it was an alert at Foyle Road on Wednesday and now this,” he said.
“Traders on the Strand Road are finding it difficult enough to make a living and provide employment for local people without this disruption to business on one of the busiest days of the week and just a few weeks away from Christmas.
“It’s incredible that this disruption is taking place at the same time a parade is on for families and youngsters to walk with Santa from the Guildhall Square to the Richmond Centre.”
SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey said it was up to the people responsible to explain to the people of Derry what they were trying to achieve.
“This has happened in the run-up to the Christmas period and is doing untold harm to the business community.
“What incentive is there for people to bring their children into the town when things like this are happening.
“Whether it is a hoax or a viable device, it doesn’t matter because it still causes great disruption.
“The challenge is to the people who carry out these attacks to defend their position and explain to the people of Derry what they are doing.”
City centre manager Jim Roddy also condemned the attack.
“It would appear that this was a hoax and it caused minimum disruption,” he said.
“But still there were shops and business affected by this.
“People are trying to earn a living and any disruption at this very difficult financial time can have disastrous effects on a business.
“Anyone doing this, whether they feel it is for political ends or for a prank, needs to realise the devastating effect it has on people’s lives.”