Prison officer injured in Belfast bomb attack dies

Tuesday 15 March 2016 22.36
A device exploded under the van Adrian Ismay was driving on 4 March
A device exploded under the van Adrian Ismay was driving on 4 March

A prison officer injured in a bomb attack in Belfast earlier this month has died.

Adrian Ismay, a 52-year-old married father of three, needed surgery for severe leg injuries following the attack, which happened as he set off for work.

He was said to be recovering well from surgery but was taken back into hospital this morning, and died.

A device exploded under the van he was driving in the Hillsborough Drive area, off Woodstock Road, a predominantly loyalist area in the east of the city, just after 7am on 4 March.

Dissident republican group the New IRA claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Mr Ismay was a long-serving officer based at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast, who worked as a trainer for new recruits to the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

Police will have to await medical evidence before confirming whether his death will be treated as murder.

In a statement last week to the BBC, the New IRA said the officer was targeted because he was involved in training other guards at HMP Maghaberry, near Lisburn.

A spokesman said he was one of a number on a list of potential targets and the attack arose from a dispute over the treatment of dissident republican inmates.

On hearing the news of Mr Ismay's death, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said: "I extend my sincere condolences to Adrian's family, friends and colleagues at this dreadful time.  

"As I previously said, this was a callous and cowardly attack on the entire community. We must work together to reject those who would wish to return Northern Ireland to the days when these heinous attacks were commonplace.

"Their futile agenda will not succeed. We best honour Adrian's memory by redoubling our efforts to build a truly peaceful future for the people of Northern Ireland."

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell said: "Adrian was the father of three grown-up daughters and had over 28 years' service with the Prison Service. Our deepest sympathy is with Adrian's family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.

"One man has been charged with attempted murder and causing an explosion with intent to endanger life.

"The investigation is continuing. At this stage, we are working to establish the exact cause of Adrian's death."

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster said via Twitter: "I'm devastated. Can't believe the news ... My thoughts are with his family."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said she was shocked and saddened by the prison officer's death.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, meanwhile, has expressed her sorrow at the death. 

Speaking at an event in the House of Lords in London, where she is taking part in St Patrick's Day events, Minister Fitzgerald said the attack was cowardly and atrocious and she wished to convey her condolences to the Prison Service of Northern Ireland and her sympathies to the family of the prison officer.