A boy found a pipe bomb lying in his primary school playground in the North today.
Brendan Shannon, 8, then walked into St Comgall’s Primary in Antrim and handed it over to one of the teachers.
Explosives experts were called in after the school’s 400 pupils were told to stay away from the building.
Brendan’s mother Siobhan Shannon, a nurse, said later: “The people who left that device probably have kids of their own. Have they no conscience?”
The boy and his twin sister, Ciara, had arrived early on their bicycles to help deliver milk to classrooms when he noticed the device lying on top of a painted line close to the playground wall.
He said: “I didn’t know what it was. It was like a pipe with a screw and some wires were hanging out of it. Somebody told me afterwards it was a pipe bomb.”
Brendan gave the device to one of the teachers, Marie Hannigan. Around the same there was a telephone warning of another device at a second primary school in the town, St Joseph’s.
The St Comgall’s pupils were first taken to a nearby church hall before being sent home. Police said the people responsible for the alerts were cowardly criminals.
Mrs Shannon, a mother of three, said she was disgusted.
She added: “Brendan didn’t know what to think when he picked up the device. It was a gold coloured pipe with a screw and wires inside.
“He thought it was alright and carried it to the teacher.It was only then he realised that this was serious. It was a viable device and can you imagine what might have happened had he dropped it?
“He’s lucky he is still around to tell the tale. It doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened. Putting innocent youngsters through all that is a disgrace.”
The majority of the children are Catholic, but pupils belonging to other religious denominations, including Protestant, attend the school on the town’s Ballymena Road, not far from Antrim police station.
Mrs Shannon said: “Brendan is enjoying being the centre of attention, but he doesn’t realise the danger he was in. It’s a despicable act.
“Why would anybody want to do that? Its ridiculous. The people who left that device probably have kids of their own. Have they no conscience? What must they be thinking? They must have no conscience.”
School principal Hilary Cush said he was outraged.
He said: “It’s absolutely crazy. It’s unbelievable that innocent children should be caught up in something like this.”
Chief Inspector Simon Walls, police area commander for the district, said: “To target the general public is never acceptable by any means but to take away the secure feelings of innocent children and to put them at risk like this is beyond despicable.
“It is by sheer good fortune that we are not dealing with a severely injured child right now.
“The people who carry out these senseless acts show a total disregard for their fellow man and are not part of the society within which the majority of people of Northern Ireland wish to live.”
William McCrea, the Democratic Unionist Party MP for South Antrim, said the incident was obscene and an utter disgrace.
He added: “It proves just how depraved some of those who want to drag Northern Ireland backwards are. To target a primary school and to put innocent children at risk is plumbing new depths.”