IRA shoots police guard in hospital

An RUC officer was injured last night in an IRA attempt to kill police officers guarding a well-known loyalist politician who was visiting his seriously ill child at a west Belfast hospital. Gunmen fired four shots at policemen in a hospital corridor close to where children were being treated. One bullet hit an empty incubator.

The policemen, in plain clothes, were approached by two disguised gunmen. When the officers challenged them four shots were fired, hitting one officer in the foot. It happened just outside an intensive-care unit where the politician and his wife were visiting their seven-year-old son. The IRA's Belfast brigade admitted responsibility, saying their targets had been the policemen.

It was earlier suggested the intention was to kill the policemen and then assassinate Nigel Dodds, chairman of the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist party.

RUC assistant chief constable Bill Stewart called the attack "an incredibly cruel and evil act" and confirmed it appeared to be directed at the policemen. Hours earlier police had warned of the likelihood of IRA attacks in the run-up to Christmas.

It happened shortly after 8 pm in the Royal Children's Hospital, where Mr Dodds's son Andrew, who has spina bifida and hydrocephalus, is being treated. The hospital is part of the Royal Victoria complex, which borders on the republican Falls Road, and as such is treated with caution by loyalists and members of the security forces.

It is understood members of Mr Dodds's party had warned him against establishing a pattern in visiting the boy, and thus leaving him open to an assassination attempt.

Mr Dodds has made many television appearances as a spokesman for Mr Paisley's party. He is party chairman, a leading member of its Stormont talks team, a Belfast councillor and a former lord mayor of the city.

In their pre-Christmas warning, the RUC told the public "to be particularly vigilant in light of recent terrorist activity." Police were especially concerned that there is a threat facing the community following incidents in counties Fermanagh, Armagh and Londonderry, coupled with the discovery of terrorist munitions. Other incidents have included the discovery of mortars and incendiary devices, and an attempt to blow up a security force vehicle with a horizontal mortar in north Belfast.

Nelson McCausland, a Unionist councillor visiting another patient at the time of the attack, said he heard four shots. "It is utterly appalling that the IRA should even consider launching this attack in a children's hospital unit where one child was lying seriously ill and another child had just died."

Mr Paisley said: "It was a diabolical thing to do, to go in where a parent was seeing his sick little boy. I am absolutely sickened, yet these are the people that the British government wants me to sit down with. I earnestly pray that the prime minister will not be bluffed ... and give in to these men, who are not prepared to be democrats. This illustrates the baseness and villainy of their hearts."

Recently security has been increased for a number of public figures, some of whom are well-known Unionist politicians. The policemen accompanying Mr Dodds are not believed to be his regular bodyguards, but are thought to be stationed at Grosvenor Road RUC station, near the hospital.

Security measures are likely to be reviewed again in the light of the latest incident.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam