Story highlights

The man is charged with attempted murder in the March 4 bombing

The bomb wounded a prison officer

Officials fear more attacks ahead of the Easter Rising anniversary

CNN —  

A 45-year-old man appeared in a Northern Ireland court Saturday in connection with a bombing in Belfast – a blast that authorities fear could be one of many leading up to an uprising’s milestone anniversary.

Christopher Alphonsos Robinson, a 45-year-old from Dunmurry on Belfast’s outskirts, was charged with attempted murder of a prison officer and having explosives with intent to endanger lives related to the March 4 bombing, according to court officials.

When asked by the court clerk if he understood the charges, Robinson did not reply, instead giving a loud sigh, according to court officials.

His lawyer told the court that during 16 police interviews, his client was not presented with evidence linking him to the bombing attack on the prison officer’s van. A detective told the court that police can connect Robinson to the crime, officials said.

After Saturday’s court appearance, Robinson was ordered back into law enforcement custody until a second court appearance April 1.

The bombing in east Belfast left a 52-year-old prison officer with severe but non-life-threatening injuries, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

At the time, Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin voiced worry about an “extremely high” threat ahead of the 100th anniversary of what’s known as the Easter Rising, the Irish uprising against British rule.

In 1916, a small force of disparate nationalists launched an armed insurrection against the British government. While the brief occupation of Dublin was a military defeat, it was successful in demonstrating the resolve of the Irish nationalists in their fight for self-determination.

At least four events are planned to mark the centenary, the first on March 26.

Concerns about violence

Authorities have expressed worries that splinter groups from what was once the Irish Republican Army will target police, prison officers and soldiers, Martin said earlier this month. Security forces have beefed up their presence ahead of the anniversary.

It’s all related to longstanding tensions between pro-British Protestants and Catholics who favored wresting Northern Ireland from British control and unifying it with Ireland, a conflict known as “The Troubles” that left nearly 3,600 people dead during the late 20th-century.

The historic Good Friday agreement in 1998 led to power-sharing and a sharp drop in sectarian violence, yet the opposition to British rule never entirely disappeared.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan was among those who strongly criticized the bombing this month in Belfast, calling it “callous and cowardly.”

“It must be utterly condemned,” Flanagan said. “Not only was it targeted on an individual public servant, it represented a futile attack on the entire community which is determined to achieve a peaceful and reconciled society in Northern Ireland.”