Police investigate potential dissident republican lorry bomb bid on Brexit day

Police in Northern Ireland are investigating a potential dissident republican plot to blow up a lorry due to cross the Irish Sea on Brexit day.

Officers are investigating a link to a ferry crossing to Scotland on January 31 and a bomb found on a heavy goods vehicle in Co Armagh earlier this week.

Police received a report that an explosive device was on a lorry in Belfast docks last Friday, the day the UK left the EU.

The report received by police claimed the ferry was due to travel to Scotland.

An intensive search was carried out but nothing was found, and the ferry sailed as planned.

But three days later, on Monday, officers received a further report that a device was attached to a lorry belonging to a named haulage company.

After a two-day operation, which involved the search of 400 vehicles, an explosive device was found attached to a heavy goods vehicle in the Silverwood Industrial Estate in Lurgan, Co Armagh. It was made safe by Army bomb disposal officers.

Officers have appealed for anyone who saw anything suspicious in the estate between 4pm and 10pm on Brexit day to come forward.

Detective Superintendent Sean Wright, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Terrorism Investigation Unit, said: "It is clear from the information available to police that dissident republicans deliberately and recklessly attached an explosive device to a heavy goods vehicle in the full knowledge and expectation that it would put the driver of that vehicle, road users and the wider public at serious risk of injury and possible death.

Detective superintendent Sean Wright
Detective superintendent Sean Wright

"Had this vehicle travelled and the device had exploded at any point along the M1, across the Westlink (link road through Belfast) or into the Harbour estate the risks posed do not bear thinking about.

"The only conclusion that we can draw is that once again dissident republicans have shown a total disregard for the community, for businesses and for wider society."

Detective Superintendent Wright said he wanted to hear from anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the industrial estate between 4pm and 10pm on January 31.

"In addition I ask that anyone who was driving in the area and who would have dash-cam footage around these same times that they contact police, as a matter of urgency," he said.