‘Elaborate hoax’ causes major disruption at Shamrock Rovers and Derry City clash

Chris Heaton-Harris left the match at Brandywell Stadium early as suspect object caused ‘huge disruption’

Police cordoned off a section of the Lone Moor Road close to Derry City FC's Brandywell Stadium. Pic: Aodhán Roberts

The scene near the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium

Belfast TelegraphBelfast Telegraph

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was forced to leave Derry City’s Brandywell Stadium following a security alert that has since been declared an elaborate hoax.

The disruption unfolded during a match on Friday night between Derry City and Shamrock Rovers – attended by NI Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and President Michael D Higgins.

Mr Heaton-Harris departed the stadium shortly before an address on the PA system announced that part of the area nearby was sealed off.

It came 20 minutes before the end of the game, which Derry City won 2-0.

PSNI Superintendent William Calderwood said: “Police received a report that a suspicious object had been found in the Celtic Court area at around 8.30pm on Friday.

“Ammunition Technical Officers were tasked and declared the object an elaborate hoax.”

He added: "I want to thank the local community, in particular those who were directly affected, for their cooperation and assistance as we worked to keep people safe.”

The scene near the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium

Local councillor Emmet Doyle said he had been caught up in the security alert and was unable to get home, posting a video about the incident on his Facebook page.

He described it as a ‘full blown security alert’ and said the Gasyard Centre had been opened for those who needed to use it.

"Lone Moor Road is blocked off, there is a security alert,” he said. “You can’t get across the Celtic Park end of the Lone Moor Road.

"People are being turned away at Stanley’s Walk. The Gasyard is open for people who are going to be evacuated or maybe can’t get home because their cars are parked on Lone Moor Road.”

Derry City were playing Shamrock Rovers in the President’s Cup match, which is contested between the winners of the previous season’s League of Ireland Premier Division and the FAI Cup.

First-half goals from Will Patching and Michael Duffy saw the Candystripes win.

Mr Higgins and Mr Heaton-Harris had both carried out engagements in the city before attending the game.

SDLP MP for Foyle Colum Eastwood was also in the crowd, and said there was ‘significant disruption’ in the area.

“Elderly residents and children have had their night turned upside down as police attempt to make the area safe,” he said.

“It is particularly frustrating that local people and Derry City fans are experiencing this disruption as President Higgins visits for this evening’s President’s Cup match.”

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said: “I have no idea who is responsible for tonight's security alert but they would really need to wise up – causing inconvenience and anxiety to residents and match-goers. That's all they've achieved.”

Sinn Fein MLA Pádraig Delargy also condemned those behind the alert.

The Foyle MLA said:

“This has caused huge disruption for elderly residents and thousands of fans attending the Derry City match at the Brandywell .

“No one wants to see this type of disruption, especially on a cold winter night.”

The PSNI have asked anyone with information regarding the incident to contact them via 101.

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