A former soldier has said that he was “disgusted” to learn of the details of Ciaran Maxwell’s crime.
Maxwell, 31 and formerly of Larne (though latterly based in Devon), had been a Royal Marine but is now facing sentencing in a London court after being caught hoarding massive amounts of munitions in east Antrim.
Andy Allen, an ex-soldier who was MLA for East Belfast prior to the dissolution of the Assembly ahead of the coming election, said: “It’s important to remember that this one person should not be allowed to bring the great reputation and name of the Armed Forces down.
“I’m thankful he’s been caught before he was able to cause any harm to the general public, and indeed I’m confident the security forces will be doing all they can to ensure that no-one else is in this situation or this scenario.
“Some people I’ve spoken to from an Armed Forces background are angered, annoyed, disappointed, that obviously this has tarnished the reputation of the Armed Forces to some degree, this individual being a Royal Marine.
“There’s certainly an anger there among the Armed Forces community.
“As somebody who served in the Armed Forces, we serve to uphold the law and protect life – and here’s a scenario whereby somebody who’s joined the Armed Forces potentially was involved in a scenario which could take life.”
Mr Allen lost his legs whilst posted to Afghanistan with the Royal Irish Regiment, aged 19.
The Guardian newspaper last year quoted an unnamed source stating that Maxwell had also been posted to that country.
When it comes to the discoveries which led to Maxwell’s capture, two separate hauls of weapons were discovered in Carnfunnock and Capanagh parks last year.
Four barrels were unearthed at Carnfunnock in March – two barrels were empty but two contained a variety of bomb-making components, including wiring, toggle switches, circuit boards, partially constructed timer power units, ball bearings and a small quantity of explosives.
An armour-piercing improvised rocket and two anti-personnel mines were among the cache recovered at Capanagh in May, plus several pipe bombs, magazines and ammunition for an assault rifle as well as bomb component parts and command wires – also concealed in barrels in purpose-built holes in woodland.
The BBC has said that detectives traced the serial numbers on the mines across the Irish Sea to 40 Commando’s base near Taunton, Somerset.
Sammy Wilson MP said there are “questions for the military as well”.
“How easy is it to get equipment out of camps and training exercises?” he asked.
“That’s, I think, a question they have to answer.”
Roy Beggs of the UUP said: “I’d be very disappointed if there has not already been a significant review to discover how such weapons could have been removed from a military base, and I hope that lessons have been learned.”
The MoD was asked to comment on both concerns around vetting of Maxwell, and on how he obtained munitions, but said it was “inappropriate” to say much until after sentencing.
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