The Foreign Affairs Minister has been whisked off stage and taken to a safe place after a security threat at an event in north Belfast.
Minister Coveney was mid-speech at the Hume Foundation when he was informed of the threat.
“I’m sorry, I have to leave. I hope to be back shortly,” he said to the audience.
Attendees were all evacuated to an area 400 metres away while Ammunition Technical Officers examined a ‘suspect device’ outside the building.
The officers are focusing on a hijacked van with was abandoned outside the venue.
🚨SECURITY ALERT: The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister has been evacuated from a peace-building talk on the Crumlin Road after a hijacked van was parked outside with a suspect device. @Sarah_McKinley_ was there. pic.twitter.com/UqpwLpC57P
— Cool FM News (@newsoncool) March 25, 2022
Downtown reporter Sarah McKinley was attending the event near Holy Cross Monastery this morning.
She said a man appeared at the doors of the event “visibly shaken” and said they had been forced out of their van which was then parked nearby with a suspect device inside.
“The minister was then bundled into his car by security and whisked away while we in attendance were ushered outside and taken 400 metres away,” she said.
“Bomb squads are now in attendance and there is a feeling of deep shock as we stand on the pavement outside.”
A spokesperson for Minister Coveney said both he and his team are safe and have been taken to a secure location.
In a tweet, Minister Coveney offered his sympathies to the driver of the hijacked van, who it is believed was held at gunpoint.
“In Belfast with the John and Pat Hume Foundation to honour John and Pat’s legacy of peace for all communities,” he wrote.
“Saddened and frustrated that someone has been attacked and victimised in this way and my thoughts are with him and his family.”
He also offered his thanks to the PSNI.
The event has now been abandoned.
A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police are currently in attendance of a security alert at the Crumlin Road area of North Belfast this morning.”
The PSNI is advising motorists to avoid the area.