East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party MLAs for East Antrim Roy Beggs and John Stewart have welcomed the sentencing of former Larne resident and Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell to 23 years for serious terrorist offences, including bomb-making and storing stolen military weapons.
Roy Beggs MLA said:
“It is clear from the evidence presented during the trial, that Ciaran Maxwell had the means and intent to kill or seriously injure a wide range of people. As well as uncovering an extensive arsenal of weaponry, evidence of his planning and targeting of police officers and others was disclosed. Significant terrorists deserve significant sentences.
“20 years on from the second IRA ceasefire, it is appalling that dissident republicans are still plotting terrorist attacks on our streets which could have killed or seriously injured police officers and members of the public. There is evidence that the ex-Royal Marine sourced weapons and had been planning significant attacks. It is only through the vigilance of our police and security services that murderous attacks have been foiled.
“The detailed targeting of individual officers and the manufacturing of pipe bombs which were actually used show that he presented a considerable danger the life of citizens. The actions of dissident republicans like Ciaran Maxwell should be treated in a similar way to ISIS terrorists. He and other terrorists should be afforded no sympathy and he deserves a long prison sentence.
“The scale of bomb making material recovered in addition to IEDs recovered across the 43 hides in England and Northern Ireland also raise worrying questions. How was he able to remove weapons from his Royal Marine Base? Were there any signs of his terrorist linkages which were missed? How was he able to transport the weaponry across the Irish Sea? Hopefully as a result of this case, lessons will have been learned and the chances of a repeat occurrence minimised.”
John Stewart MLA said:
“In many ways this was a bizarre and highly unusual case. But what is crystal clear is that if Maxwell had been more successful in his parallel terrorist campaign, many many lives would have been lost. We know from what came out in the trial that he had made at least 14 pipe bombs, four of which had already been used in republican terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland, and that the bomb making materials which were discovered in the numerous hides he made were capable of causing massive destruction.
“It is no exaggeration to say that if the security services and police had not caught him, he could have triggered a wave of death and destruction which could have taken this society back into the worst days of the Troubles.
“People can speculate all they want about what might have motivated him to get involved with Irish republican terrorism, but what is clear is that he was responsible for his own actions. He betrayed the traditions and honour of his Regiment, and posed a highly dangerous threat to the peace and security of the United Kingdom. That being the case, I am glad that he will be going to prison for a very long time.”