Gardai in Athlone are examining CCTV footage and conducting door-to-door enquiries following the discovery of two viable devices at head shops in the town on Wednesday.
The Army’s bomb disposal unit was called to Athlone on Wednesday morning after Gardai were alerted to the presence of suspicious devices outside head shops at Sean Costello Street and Irishtown on Wednesday morning.
While early reports suggested the devices were hoaxes, the Army soon revealed that the two objects were viable improvised explosive devices, meaning they contained explosive content, shrapnel content, and a fuse.
The devices were removed to a safe location by the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, where they were made safe before being handed over to the Gardai. The remains of the devices have been undergoing forensic examination at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park.
Wednesday morning’s frightening discovery set in motion an extensive Garda operation which saw up to 200 people evacuated from businesses and private residences in the Mardyke Street, Sean Costello Street, and Irishtown areas. Streets were cleared and sealed off and traffic diverted away from the town centre as the devices were made safe.
The alarm was raised at approximately 9.30am on Wednesday, when staff opening up the shops noticed the suspicious devices outside their premises.
By 10.20am the Army Bomb Disposal team had arrived, and the devices had been removed and the scene declared safe by 11.25am.
The constituency office of Senator Nicky McFadden was among the premises to be evacuated during Wednesday’s scare. Yesterday she condemned the attacks and called on the public to cooperate with Garda investigations.
“This was a threat to civil society, and life could have been lost. People shouldn’t take the law into their own hands. I spoke in the Seanad yesterday during a debate on head shops and called on Minister Curran to close down head shops,” said Senator McFadden.
“It is incumbent on us to make young people aware that just because the products sold in these shops are legal does not mean they are safe.”
The Athlone Drug Awareness group held a public meeting yesterday [Thursday] evening in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel about the products sold in head shops.
Chairperson of the group, Cllr Frankie Keena, was unavailable to comment on Wednesday’s events.
Anyone who witnessed any suspicious activity in the vicinity of the shops, or who has any information which may be useful to Gardai, is asked to contact Athlone Garda Station at (090 ) 6494033 or the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111.