The discovery of the device, which was destroyed in a controlled explosion by Army bomb disposal experts early yesterday, provoked immediate claims by Unionist politicians that the Government had acted too quickly in scaling down security precautions following the IRA ceasefire announced two weeks ago.
John Taylor MP, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said that such relaxation was "probably ill-advised". The attempt will also strengthen Ulster Unionist demands on the British and Irish governments for some sort of disarmament by the IRA when the talks process resumes on 15 September.
Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, condemned the attack and called for a full briefing on who was behind the incident at the Carrybridge Hotel at Lisbellaw, Co Fermanagh. Fifty residents and guests, including British fishermen and foreign tourists from boats moored on the nearby River Erne, were evacuated after staff received a call warning: "It's for real, it's for real".
Security forces said the main suspects were republican splinter groups such as the Continuity Army Council (CAC), which is linked to Republican Sinn Fein, and the Irish National Liberation Army, neither of which has backed the ceasefire.
Last July, the CAC is thought to have bombed the Killyhevlin Hotel in nearby Enniskillen, where some guests from this latest incident were evacuated to early yesterday.
The nightmare scenario for the security forces and the already fragile peace talks, that the attack was planned by dissident factions within the IRA itself, has also not been ruled out. Some in the lower echelons of the organisation are known to be deeply unhappy with the second ceasefire.
Sinn Fein's northern chairman, Gerry O'Hara, said yesterday that groups still engaged in armed actions should desist.
He added: "Sinn Fein has offered to speak to anyone who has concerns about the current situation."
The l,000lbs of homemade explosives were found inside a Ford Orion left in a car park close to staff living quarters. The daughter of the owner saw a man switching off the car headlights, get out and disappear. Later there were two telephone warnings, one of them to a Catholic priest in the village of Derrylin and the second to the hotel where the bar was full of late-night drinkers. It is understood that the car used by the bombers has been traced to Portadown, Co Armagh.
Colin Beattie, 56, who took over the hotel within hours of the last IRA ceasefire in August l994, said: "They kept saying: `It's the real thing, it's the real thing' several times. Everybody got out.
"Most of our customers are from England. They are regulars who have been coming here for years. But when things like this happen and their wives hear about it back home, it's bound to frighten people off."
Mo Mowlam has announced a review of Northern Ireland's electoral system, which will include an investigation of recent vote-fixing claims.
In a statement on Thursday night, Ms Mowlam said she took very seriously allegations of vote-fixing, which were made largely against Sinn Fein after the last general election.
She said: "Stealing or inventing votes is plainly wrong and we already do a great deal to ensure it doesn't happen. But we must find out the facts so that we can see if there is anything else we can do."Reuse content