PM visits Ireland base as attack provokes outrage

By politics.co.uk staff

Two UK soldiers killed by Republican dissidents have been named, as Gordon Brown visits Stormont and the base where they were killed.

The soldiers who died on Saturday evening when gunmen opened fire outside the Massereene army base in County Antrim, 16 miles north of Belfast, were named as Sappers Cengiz Azimkar and Mark Quinsey.

Speaking in Stormont today, the prime minister said there would more of the “tears of history”.

“What I’ve seen this morning is the unity of the people of Northern Ireland, that they stand united behind the peace process they’ve been building for many, many years,” Mr Brown said.

“The political process is now unshakeable.

“No more of the tears of history. What the people of Ireland are building together no terrorist should be able to destroy.”

The sappers, from 25 Field Squadron 38 Engineer Regiment, were due to deploy to Afghanistan today.

Addressing the Commons today, Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward described the attack as “an act of extreme barbarism”.

“Whatever self-styled name these murderers choose to use this, this House will rightly recognise them as killers,” he told MPs.

“They are simply brutal and cowardly killers. They have no community support whatsoever.”

The attack, which the Real IRA has claimed responsibility for, happened as soldiers left the base to collect a pizza being delivered. Two Domino’s workers were among four people injured in the attack.

Gordon Brown visited the base today with Northern Ireland chief constable Sir Hugh Orde. The prime minister then visited Stormont for talks with political leaders.

Speaking outside Stormont today, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said: “The people who carried out this attack don’t have any support within the broad Republican community and Sinn Fein will go toe-to-toe to ensure there is no ambiguity around this action.

“It’s the old mantra of making politics work. We will oppose these people and support the peace process.”

A Dublin-based newspaper was contacted by someone claiming to be from the Real IRA on Sunday, saying the splinter organisation had carried out the attack.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, said he was “deeply shocked and angered” by the attack.

“The peaceful garrison life so enjoyed by the soldiers has been shattered by this most tragic event which is especially distressing as the regiment begins its deployment to Afghanistan,” he said.

“I offer the families and friends of those affected my heartfelt condolences and support.”

Republican and loyalist politicians have described the actions of the gunmen as despicable.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the perpetrators of the attack were “steeped in the mindset and means of past violence”.

“Such terrorism achieves nothing but grief and injury for victims and shock and disgust across the community,” Mr Durkan added.

Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson, leader of the DUP, said the shootings were a “terrible reminder of the events of the past”.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister at Stormont, told the BBC: “I supported the IRA during the conflict, I myself was a member of the IRA but that war is over.

“Now the people responsible for last night’s incident are clearly signalling that they want to resume or restart that war.”

Peter Mandelson, who was Northern Ireland secretary for two years following the Good Friday Agreement, told BBC1’s Andrew Marr show the attack was “cowardly and futile”.

“The difference between now and the past is that all shades of political opinion in Northern Ireland are united in condemning what has been done,” he said.

“No one in Northern Ireland wants to go back to its violent past.”