Pounds 22m cost of IRA bombings: David McKittrick reports on the damage to morale caused by the wave of explosions in Northern Ireland

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THE Government yesterday estimated that the IRA has caused about pounds 22m in damage since last Thursday, with four bomb attacks in Belfast and provincial towns in Northern Ireland.

The bombings have clearly had a major impact on public morale. One local mayor spoke of 'a sense of desolation and hopelessness', while traders said some staff were 'devastated and distressed'.

The attacks led to Unionist demands for tougher anti-IRA measures, including a sealing of the border with the Irish Republic, the introduction of identity cards, and internment without trial. Unionist MPs failed in attempt to have an emergency debate in the Commons.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, said while inspecting the damage that it was a time for a cool head and a considered response. He added: 'I know how easy it is to demand that the security forces 'be let off the leash', allowed to do anything outside the law. We would descend to the level of the enemy if that happened, and I know that in their hearts the people of Northern Ireland understand that.'

The Northern Ireland Office released preliminary estimates of the damage done by the four bombs. Last Thursday's bomb near Belfast city centre will cost an estimated pounds 6.5m, while Saturday's attack on the centre of Portadown, Co Armagh, will cost pounds 8m. The bill for Sunday's bombing of a Belfast hotel will be around pounds 2.5m, while yesterday's explosion in Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, will cost pounds 5m.

(Photograph omitted)