As the flowers continue to pile up outside the Massarene Barracks in Northern Ireland, the hunt is on to find the Real IRA gunmen who claim to have shot two British soldiers dead. They were the first military deaths in the province for 12 years. The soldiers, both in their 20s, were shot at close range as they collected a takeaway pizza. Two other soldiers and the two pizza delivery drivers, one a Polish national, were seriously wounded.
As the police inquiry gathers momentum, politicians have vowed the killings in Antrim will not plunge the province into a fresh cycle of violence: “This action was carried out by people who are totally and absolutely opposed to peace, totally opposed to the peace process. It was wrong, it was counterproductive, it shouldn’t have happened. And it appears to me that these people are very determined to try and get as many soldiers – British soldiers – back on the streets of the north of Ireland as they possibly can.” said Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein. The shootings followed a police warning last week that the threat from IRA splinter groups was at its highest for years. In January, security services defused a 140-kilo car bomb left by suspected dissident republicans near the village of Castlewellan. Galvanised by Saturday night’s killings, the people of Antrim – Catholic, Protestant, young and old – gathered yesterday at the murder scene to pray for peace.