Dissident republicans may have been to blame for a foiled bomb attack in Dublin today, just hours before Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair was due to arrive in the city.
Gardai are investigating the possibility that republicans opposed to the Sinn Fein leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness planted the bomb near the Dáil early this morning.
A security source said: “We are investigating the possibility that hard-line republicans could have planted the bomb.
“They were also blamed for a similar device found in Belfast before the city marathon yesterday.”
A controlled explosion was carried out on the pipe bomb within the railings of a house in Merrion Square, near the National Gallery, army officers said.
An army bomb disposal attended the scene and sealed off the area before detonating the device.
A spokesman for the Irish army said its bomb disposal unit was called out early this morning to Merrion Square where a device had been found by police officers.
“An item was found inside the railings of a house near the National Gallery,” he said.
“It was a pipe bomb. The bomb disposal unit destroyed it by means of a controlled explosion.”
Irish police said they were alerted by a call from the Samaritans.
Superintendent Tom Conway said: “At 6.40am a call was received by the Samaritans to say that a suspicious device was placed at Merrion Square West.
“As a result of a search carried out by the gardai a device was found at number 88 Merrion Square West.
“The area was sealed off, a team was requisitioned and they carried out a controlled explosion.”
He said the area was now safe from the point of view of the public. Two other locations were examined as part of the investigation but nothing had been found.
“Of course it is a worrying development,” Supt Conway said. “We would be carrying out inquiries to establish the source of this particular issue.”
He said the warning call would be studied in a bid to find the person or people responsible.
The incident occurred as government officials planned for a visit from Tony Blair, who will meet Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in a bid to break the deadlock in the Northern Ireland peace process.
The process was plunged into crisis last week when elections to the Stormont Assembly, scheduled for May 29, were postponed until the autumn.
Mr Blair will be greeted in Dublin’s Phoenix Park at around 4pm by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen and Justice Minister Michael McDowell.
Security was expected to be tight in the city following the incident.
Meanwhile, dissident republicans were blamed for a device placed in Belfast city centre yesterday, close to the route of the city marathon.
The bomb was diffused hours before thousands of runners took part in the event.