THE IRA rejected international condemnation of the Warrington bombing by exploding a device in central London yesterday hours before the official memorial service for the two boys who died.
No one was injured in the explosion outside a Conservative club near St Pancras station and there was little damage, but it showed that the terrorists have decided to ignore the outrage that followed the Warrington attack last month.
The bombing, the first on the British mainland since Warrington, dashed hopes that the IRA might stop attacking civilian targets because of the anger over the explosion which killed Tim Parry, 12, and Johnathan Ball, three.
Yesterday's blast came shortly after people attending a service in the Cheshire town were told that the deaths should become an opportunity for peace-making.
Hours after the St Pancras explosion the parents attended the main memorial service in Warrington parish church at which they were joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, John Major, and Mary Robinson, president of the Irish Republic. The bomb also followed Mr Major's announcement of a new political initiative to try to find a solution to the province's problems.
St Pancras, King's Cross and Euston stations were closed after the explosion in an alley outside the club in Argyle Square at 3.45pm. Scotland Yard said a man with an Irish accent gave two 30-minute coded warnings.
Paul Rahill, who lives next door to the club said he was evacuated by the police 20 minutes before the blast and was standing nearby when the bomb went off. He said: 'I heard a very loud bang and I felt the ground reverberate.'
Alfred Atie, 21, who was standing 25 yards away from where the bomb went off, said: 'I saw a flash and there was a cloud of dust, a bang and paper blowing everywhere. I'd say it was a small bomb, but it could have killed. It was very scary.'
At a service in Warrington yesterday the Rev Stephen Kingsnorth, a local minister, told a large crowd: 'If we can pursue peace with the same virulence and ardour with which we have condemned the awesome cowardice of bombers who target children, then we expose their methods to derision.'
Later at a more formal ceremony in Warrington parish church Johnathan's father, Wilf Ball, and Tim's father, Colin Parry, lit candles.
The Most Rev Derek Worlock, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, told the congregation reconciliation was the only way to peace. He said peace rallies in Dublin and London since the bombing had shown the views of most ordinary Irish people and those feelings had been expressed in a letter from Cardinal Cahal Daly, Archbishop of Armagh.
He had written: 'Rarely have I experienced such intensity of revulsion and indignation as this atrocity in Warrington has evoked all over Ireland. People here are outraged that such deeds are claimed by the IRA to be done in the name of the people of Ireland. The Irish people reject that claim with vehemence.'
The Rt Rev David Sheppard, the Bishop of Liverpool, cautioned: 'We have had false dawns before . . . Reconciliation is not a soft word. It is quite costly. Both sides have to do some giving to create peace with justice. This has been a great symbol of innocence being shattered through violence and cruelty and many, many people have responded to that. We have got to persevere.'
Some worshippers expressed outrage at the London explosion. Johnathan Ball's uncle, John van Dusen, said: 'It is terrible. All the family have been hoping it would be finished.'
David Alton, Liberal Democrat MP for Mossley Hill in Liverpool, said: 'Even on a day like this, which should be sacred to the families here in Warrington, the IRA have shown they know no end to the depths that they are prepared to sink to.'
President Bill Clinton yesterday sent a personal message to the victims of the Warrington bombing. He said: 'Let me join the people of Warrington in extending my deepest sympathy to the victims of the recent bombing and their families. My prayers are with them and all the other victims of the recent wave of terrorist violence. The US condemns in the strongest terms such violence and those who support and perpetuate it.
'The American people join the people of Ireland and the United Kingdom in expressing their sympathy to those touched by these outrages in believing that violence from whatever quarter can never be justified, and in hoping that out of this tragedy will emerge a new determination to seek peace and reconciliation through dialogue.'
Mr Clinton's condemnation came in the wake of controversy over plans to send a US 'peace envoy' to Northern Ireland.
Earlier, three soldiers were slightly hurt in a missile attack on a military base at Crossmaglen, south Armagh. A civilian at the base was treated for shock. The RUC said there were three explosions.
Major's initiative, page 9
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