Northern Ireland news

Derry shooting victim had just served jail term for dissident bombing

Shooting victim Philip O'Donnell, pictured when he appeared at court in 2012 on charges linked to a bomb attack on Derry's Strand Road PSNI station. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

A man shot in the legs in Derry had only recently been released from prison for a dissident republican attack on a police station.

Philip O’Donnell (48) was shot in both legs in an alleyway at Glenowen Park shortly after 9pm on Wednesday.

A member of a well-known republican family in Derry, he was released from prison just two months ago for his role in a 2010 bombing of the city's Strand Road police station.

In December 2012 he was sentenced to 13 years – with half to be served behind bars - after pleading guilty to six charges including causing an explosion likely to endanger life.

The Derry man, with an address at Baldrick Crescent, admitted hijacking the taxi the bomb was transported in as well as falsely imprisoning the driver.

He also pleaded guilty to membership of dissident group Oglaigh na hÉireann and two further counts of attempted hijacking.

The court was told two masked men hijacked a taxi in the Brandywell area in August 2010 and ordered the driver to go to Glenfada Park, where a 200lb bomb was loaded into the boot.

The driver was then told to take it to the police station and warned that if he did not follow their instructions he would be shot.

While a warning was issued that the device would explode after 45 minutes, it went off after just 20.

No-one was hurt in the attack, but it caused widespread damage to buildings and cars around the police station.

The following day officers raided O’Donnell’s home and found a phone used to order the taxi and telephone the bomb warning.

Crown Court judge Mr Justice Burgess said he was "clearly a trusted member" of the dissident group and had he not been a “secondary party” in the attack, he would have faced more than 20 years in prison.

Wednesday's attack was the second paramilitary-style shooting in Derry in three days.

A 23-year-old man was shot in the leg in a bookmaker's shop in the Creggan area on Monday.

Two men aged 19 and 31 were arrested in the city on Thursday in connection with Monday's attack.

O’Donnell is also the second member of his family to have been targeted in a paramilitary-style shooting.

In 2012, his then 18-year-old son, also Philip, was shot in the legs in one of series of attacks which were described as “shootings by appointment”.

It was claimed by vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs, which later combined with other organisations to form the 'New IRA'.

A family member said in a social media post that the latest attack followed an incident in a bar in Derry on St Patrick’s Day.

SDLP councillor Gus Hastings, chairman of Derry and Strabane's Policing and Community Safety Partnership, said the shootings could not be justified.

“The people who carried out the attacks showed no concern for the people living in these areas and no matter what rationale is put forward these actions have no place in our society,” he said.

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