The President and the Northern Ireland Secretary both enjoyed a soccer match in Derry on Friday, despite a security alert disrupting the event.
Michael D Higgins and Chris Heaton-Harris were among those who attended the President of Ireland’s Cup match to see Derry City triumph over Shamrock Rovers at the Brandywell Stadium on Friday evening.
However, the discovery of a suspicious object in the Celtic Court area close to the stadium caused what SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described as “significant disruption” for local residents and those travelling from the match.
“Elderly residents and children have had their night turned upside down as police attempt to make the area safe,” Foyle MP Mr Eastwood said.
Kick-off was at 7.45pm, and police were notified of the suspicious device at 8.30pm.
⚽️ Delighted to attend the Brandywell with @PresidentIRL and @columeastwood yesterday for the President's Cup match between @derrycityfc and @ShamrockRovers.
👏 A brilliant display by both teams. Best wishes for the @LeagueofIreland season. pic.twitter.com/O08ckOAr33
— Chris Heaton-Harris MP (@chhcalling) February 11, 2023
The PSNI’s ammunition technical officers later declared the device an “elaborate hoax”.
Superintendent William Calderwood thanked the local community for their cooperation and said the Serious Crime Branch has commenced an investigation.
Mr Heaton-Harris tweeted on Saturday that he was “delighted” to attend the Brandywell, and witness what he called “a brilliant display by both teams”.
A spokesman for the President told the PA news agency that Mr Higgins “enjoyed the game and was very pleased to have the opportunity to have a very good visit to the Northlands Addiction Treatment Centre before the match”.
Mr Higgins visited the Northlands centre, which helps people suffering from addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling, and was briefed about a plan to build a new centre of excellence to help people overcome their addiction.
He also met members of the Northlands board and staff and spoke to service users who shared their stories of addiction and recovery, and praised the centre’s “impressive” rates of recovery.