Mystery as blast wrecks phone box beside chapel

Robert Turner at the scene of the telephone box bomb, shwoing how close it is to Ballyargan RC Church.
Robert Turner at the scene of the telephone box bomb, shwoing how close it is to Ballyargan RC Church.

RESIDENTS near the Ballyargan Catholic Church in the Glebe Hills between Tandragee and Scarva are puzzled and angry after an explosive device wrecked the nearby telephone box on Sunday morning.

The telephone box - which is 20 yards from the church and had its door ripped off in the past - was wrecked by the device.

Local Ulster Unionist council member Robert Turner fears the church may have been the main target.

He said, “The blast broke about every window in the kiosk and destroyed the phone mechanism. That proves the power of the explosion when you consider there wasn’t a door to contain the blast - it was torn asunder, and I do hope they weren’t targeting the chapel.

“The people around here live and let live. Thankfully, no damage was done to the building and nobody was hurt.”

Parish Priest Fr Michael Woods described the incident as “bizarre”, adding, “I can’t begin to think of a motive. Nobody has claimed responsibility, and community relations in that area are excellent.

“There’s no logic in it. There wasn’t even a Mass in the church on Sunday - that’s shared between Tandragee, Poyntzpass and Ballyargan, and with Ballyargan having such a small Catholic population, we don’t worship there most Sundays in the summer.”

The explosion happened around 9.30am on Sunday, and Johnny McKee - who lives about 100 yards away - described it as “a very loud bang”.

He added, “Friends of mine at Clare Glen two miles away heard it clearly. Debris was strewn across the road and you wonder where’s the point of it all.”

The church caretaker, who didn’t want her name published, lives about half-a-mile away and didn’t hear the blast.

“I’m a wee bit hard of hearing. I don’t think they’d target the church or the parishioners,” she said. “It’s a peaceful area here.”

The telephone box won’t be replaced. A BT engineer on the scene on Tuesday said it would take about £2,000 to replace, adding, “It would hardly lift £20 a year, so there’s no point. It doesn’t even pay BT to collect the money.”

Police and bomb disposal experts arrived on the scene at six o’ clock on Sunday evening and ask anyone who has information to contact them on 0845 600 8000.

Alternatively information can be passed via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.