Massereene Barracks shooting
Part of the dissident Irish republican campaign
Massereene Barracks shooting is located in Northern Ireland
Massereene Barracks shooting
LocationAntrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Coordinates54°43′18″N 6°13′51″W / 54.7216°N 6.2307°W / 54.7216; -6.2307Coordinates: 54°43′18″N 6°13′51″W / 54.7216°N 6.2307°W / 54.7216; -6.2307
Date7 March 2009 (2009-03-07)
~21:40[1] (UTC)
TargetMassereene Barracks
Attack type
Ambush
WeaponsAKM automatic rifle[2][3][4]
Deaths2 soldiers
Injured4 (2 soldiers, 2 civilians)
PerpetratorReal IRA

The Massereene Barracks shooting took place at Massereene Barracks in Antrim, Northern Ireland. On 7 March 2009, two off-duty British soldiers of 38 Engineer Regiment were shot dead outside the barracks. Two other soldiers and two civilian delivery men were also shot and wounded during the attack. A dissident Irish republican paramilitary group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility.

The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since 1997. Two days later, the Continuity IRA shot dead Stephen Carroll a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer; the first Northern Ireland police officer to be killed by paramilitaries since 1998.[5]

Background

From the late 1960s until the late 1990s, Northern Ireland underwent a conflict known as the Troubles, in which more than 3,500 people were killed. More than 700 of those killed were British military personnel, deployed as part of Operation Banner. The vast majority of these British military personnel were killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), which waged an armed campaign to force the British to negotiate a withdrawal from Northern Ireland. In 1997 the IRA called a final ceasefire and in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed. This is widely seen as marking the end of the conflict.[citation needed]

However, breakaway groups opposed to the ceasefire ("dissident Irish republicans") continued a low-level[6] armed campaign against the British security forces in Northern Ireland (see Dissident Irish Republican campaign). The main group involved was an IRA splinter group known as the 'Real' IRA. In 2007, the British Army formally ended Operation Banner and greatly reduced its presence in Northern Ireland.[7]

The low-level 'dissident republican' campaign continued. In January 2009, security forces had to defuse a bomb in Castlewellan,[8] and in 2008 three separate incidents saw dissident republicans attempt to kill Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers in Derry, Castlederg and Dungannon.[9] In all three cases, PSNI officers were seriously wounded. Two of the attacks involved firearms while the other involved an under-car booby-trap bomb.[citation needed]

Shooting

At about 9.40 P.M. on the evening of Saturday of 7 March, four off-duty British soldiers of the Royal Engineers walked outside the barracks to receive a pizza delivery from two delivery men.[10][11] As the exchange was taking place, two masked gunmen in a nearby car opened fire with Romanian AKM automatic rifles.[2] The firing lasted for more than 30 seconds with more than 60 shots being fired.[12] After the initial burst of gunfire, the gunmen walked over to the wounded soldiers lying on the ground and fired again at close range, killing two of them.[10][13] Those killed were Sappers Mark Quinsey from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar from London.[14][15] The other two soldiers and two deliverymen were wounded.[16][17] The soldiers were wearing desert fatigues and were to be deployed to Afghanistan the next day.[10][18] A few hours later, the stolen car involved was found abandoned near Randalstown, eight miles (13 km) from the barracks.[19]

A Dublin-based newspaper, the Sunday Tribune, received a phone call from a caller using a recognised Real IRA codeword. The caller claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Real IRA, adding that the civilian pizza deliverymen were legitimate targets as they were "collaborating with the British by servicing them".[20]

The shootings were the first British military fatalities in Northern Ireland since Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in February 1997, during the Troubles.[21] The attack came days after a suggestion by Northern Ireland's police chief, Sir Hugh Orde, that the likelihood of a "terrorist" attack in Northern Ireland was at its highest level for several years.[9]

Civilian security officers belonging to the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service were criticised for not opening fire during the incident, as a result of which plans were made to retrain and rearm them.[2]

The barracks were shut down in 2010 as part of the reduction of the British Army presence in Northern Ireland.[22]

Craigavon shooting

Main article: Killing of Stephen Carroll

Two days after the Massereene Barracks shooting, PSNI officer Stephen Carroll was shot dead in Craigavon, County Armagh. This was the first killing of a police officer in Northern Ireland since 1998.[23] The Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for this shooting and stated that "As long as there is British involvement in Ireland, these attacks will continue".[24]

Reaction

The morning after the attack, worshippers came out of St Comgall's Church after mass and kept vigil near the barracks. They were joined by their priest and clerics from the town's other churches. On 11 March 2009, thousands of people attended silent protests against the killings at several venues in Northern Ireland.[25]

The killings were condemned by all mainstream political parties in Northern Ireland, as well as the Irish government, the United States government and Pope Benedict XVI.[26][27][28] Sinn Féin condemned the killings, but was criticised for being less vehement than others in its condemnation.[29]

Trials

On 14 March 2009, the PSNI arrested three men in connection with the killings, one of whom was former IRA prisoner Colin Duffy. He had broken away from mainstream republicanism and criticised Sinn Féin's decision to back the new PSNI.[37] On 25 March 2009, after a judicial review of their detention, all the men were ordered to be released by the Belfast High Court; Duffy was immediately re-arrested on suspicion of murder.[38] On 26 March 2009, Duffy was charged with the murder of the two soldiers and the attempted murder of five other people. The following day he appeared in court for indictment and was remanded in custody to await trial after it was alleged that his full DNA profile was found on a latex glove inside the vehicle used by the gunmen. There was also soil found in the car they drove that matched the soil on the ground in front of the barracks. [39][40]

Brian Shivers, a cystic fibrosis sufferer, was charged with the soldiers' murders and the attempted murder of six other people. He was also charged with possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was arrested in Magherafelt in July 2009.[41][42]

In January 2012 Shivers was convicted of the soldiers' murders, but Duffy was acquitted.[43] In January 2013, Shivers's conviction was overturned by Northern Ireland's highest appeals court.[44] A May 2013 retrial found Shivers not guilty. He was cleared of all charges and immediately released from jail. The judge questioned why the Real IRA would choose Shivers as the gunman, with his cystic fibrosis and his engagement to a Protestant woman.[45]

Shivers's solicitor stated

Brian Shivers has suffered the horror of having been wrongfully convicted in what now must be described as a miscarriage of justice. He was convicted of the most serious charges on the criminal calendar. He was sentenced to a life term imprisonment, which would have seen him die in prison. The original conviction was overturned on a narrow legal basis. It was only during his re-trial that important new material was disclosed which completely undermined the case against him. This failed prosecution – another failed prosecution – is a cautionary tale against the reliance upon tenuous scientific evidence in high profile criminal cases.[46]

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b c "Murdered soldiers' bodies flown home from Northern Ireland without ceremony". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  3. ^ "Colin Duffy claims strip-search 'abuse&#039". Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  4. ^ ">Northern Ireland PC Murder: Second Man In Court Over Stephen Carroll Killing – Sky News". Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  5. ^ Horgan, John. Divided We Stand: The Strategy and Psychology of Ireland's Dissident Terrorists. Oxford University Press, 2013. p.57
  6. ^ McKittrick, David (19 August 2009). "The Big Question: How active is the Real IRA, and what can the security forces do about it?". London: The Independent. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
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  32. ^ "'McGuinness: 'These people are traitors". BBC News. 9 March 2009. Archived from the original on 11 March 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2009.
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