A SECURITY alert in Newry has caused serious traffic disruption.
Army technical officers worked throughout Wednesday examining a vehicle parked near the city's courthouse.
The alert was raised late on Tuesday evening.
Yeah, the alert was raised late on Tuesday evening and my work was within the cordoned-off zone, so we had to leave as soon as the police realised we were in the building. Not sure why, as they weren't evacuating any of the residential buildings in the area. No public transport at that time of night — a bit after midnight — and our cars were parked inside the cordon too, so we weren't allowed near them. Needless to say, the police do nothing to help you when you're caught up in a situation like that. Break a few shop windows and they'll put you in a nice warm cell for the night and provide you with food, but have the temerity to be a law-abiding citizen and you can go and fuck yourself as far as they're concerned.
Luckily, one of my colleagues was actually staying in Newry and so we didn't have to spend the entire night aimlessly wandering the freezing-cold streets and were able to sleep fitfully on sofas in a freezing-cold living room instead. I occasionally called the police to find out if the cordon had been lifted. They seemed to find these calls annoying, and, after a couple of them, told me that it would definitely be staying till nine at the earliest.
Which was odd. Bomb threats were a regular occurrence everywhere in Northern Ireland a few years ago, and they generally took a couple of hours for the security forces to clear. Yet this one was taking a bare minimum of, what, eleven hours? What the Hell?
And it ended up taking even longer. I eventually had to give up and get the bus and train home, conveniently leaving my car in bloody Newry. The cordon was still up well into Wednesday afternoon. And it wasn't even a real bomb.
The news reports aren't making this clear at all, but, talking to the police at the time and seeing what was going on, what appears to have happened is that the bomb squad didn't even come to look at the bomb until their normal working day started around nine. Not worth getting them out of bed for.
I certainly hope that that's what happened, as at least that would merely imply severe managerial stupidity. The alternative is that British Army bomb disposal experts take nearly twenty hours to make safe a fake bomb containing no explosives. I hope our guys in Iraq are managing to move a bit faster than that.
Anyway, it certainly sent a clear message to the terrorists: You can cripple a major town for an entire day with a car and a phonecall.
So we can probably expect this to become a regular thing. Great.