DETECTIVES IN THE North have made a “specific appeal for witnesses” in relation to a security alert that disrupted a football match that president Michael D Higgins attended.

President Higgins and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris were among those who attended the President of Ireland’s Cup match on Friday evening to see Derry City triumph over Shamrock Rovers at the Brandywell Stadium in Derry.

However, the discovery of a suspicious object on Lone Moor Road in the Celtic Court area, close to the Brandywell Stadium.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described it as a “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,” Eastwood said.

Kick-off was at 7.45pm, and police were notified of the suspicious device at 8.30pm.

Police implemented a public safety operation but shortly after 2am, the PSNI’s ammunition technical officers declared the device an “elaborate hoax”.

In an appeal today, Detective Inspector O’Flaherty from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch said: “Lone Moor Road would have been busy on Friday evening with football fans arriving for the Derry City V Shamrock Rovers game. 

“If you were on Lone Moor Road, between 6pm and 8.30pm on Friday, and noticed anything suspicious, we’d ask you to get in touch with us.”

Detective Inspector O’Flaherty also asked motorists who were travelling on the road between these times and who noticed anything unusual, or out of the ordinary, to contact police.

“This incident caused significant disruption for local residents, and for those in attendance at the football match,” said O’Flaherty.

“Your information, no matter how insignificant you think it is, could help us identify who is responsible.”

Despite the security alert, Heaton-Harris tweeted on Saturday to say that he was “delighted” to attend the Brandywell, and witness what he called “a brilliant display by both teams”.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the President told the PA news agency that president 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”.

The Northlands centre helps people suffering from addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling, and on his visit Higgins was briefed about a plan to build a new centre of excellence to help people overcome their addiction.

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