Unlikely site for such an event

It was a sight reminiscent of 1970s Belfast rather than a quiet cul de sac on Cork’s northside.

Armed soldiers patrolled the streets yesterday morning as an explosion-damaged silver Toyota Avensis was towed away from the Mervue Lawn housing estate in Ballyvolane.

A quiet street with about 20 houses just around the corner from the community’s church, it is an unlikely site for such an event.

Looking on were confused children, pensioners and worried parents, many still in their pyjamas — all waiting to get back into their houses after a night of upheaval and upset.

It was about 10pm on Sunday when a vigilant man on the street spotted suspicious activity around what appeared to be an abandoned car. He contacted gardaí and, from about 11pm, residents were evacuated to nearby St Oliver’s Church.

Meanwhile, sacristan Donal Murphy said he got the initial call from gardaí at about 11.20pm.

“You get a fright when the guards call you up that late at night. They told me there was a bomb on the road under a car and asked would I open the church for residents,” he said.

“At one point, there was about 200 adults and children in here. There was babies, old people, teenagers asleep on the altar. We made tea for people, they were just in shock. You hear about these things happening but it’s a very frightening experience when it’s on your doorstep.”

The gardaí spoke from the pulpit keeping people informed about what was going and by 2.45am everyone was back home.

However, a second evacuation of the immediate area around the car took place again at 7.30am yesterday preventing many from going to work until about 11am when the car was finally taken away.

Yesterday at about 10am, tired and in shock, people waiting on the street said it was “the quietest area in Cork”.

Eyewitnesses from the previous night said there was a huge plume of smoke and a bang when the detonator exploded, injuring an army bomb disposal expert at about 12.45am.

Finbarr McCarthy, who lives just around the corner from the cul de sac, said he had lived in the area for more than 20 years and there had never been trouble in the estate.

From 11am, as the army and Garda teams disappeared, an air of normality returned and some joked it was an extreme way to get a day off work, but behind the smiles, people were acutely aware how lucky they were.

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