The uncle of a British soldier killed by the Real IRA at Massereene has lambasted the army over security at the base on the night of the attack and has accused the military of a cover-up.
Speaking ahead of the first anniversary of the attack, Steve Hughes, whose nephew Mark Quinsey (23) was killed with Patrick Azimkar (21), highlighted a string of failings in security at the Antrim base.
"The deaths of Mark and Patrick were avoidable," Hughes told the Sunday Tribune. "The army say all the right words but they don't give a shit about ordinary soldiers."
Next Sunday marks the anniversary of the double murder.
Thirty-six hours before the Real IRA shot the soldiers as they collected pizzas at the barrack gates, the then PSNI chief constable, Hugh Orde, warned that the threat to police and soldiers from republicans was at its highest in almost a decade.
Despite this, Hughes said Massereene wasn't placed on high alert: "Soldiers have told me the only base where security was raised was MI5 headquarters in Holywood – that shows where priorities lie."
Hughes said soldiers at Massereene should have been warned of the imminent threat and confined to barracks: "Instead they were allowed to wander outside in uniform, with no armed cover, to pick up pizzas. They were young lads who had never served in Ireland during the Troubles. They were blind to the risks."
Massereene was protected by civilian guards armed only with side pistols which were "no match for the Real IRA's AKs", Hughes said: "After Orde's warning, the civilian guards should have been immediately replaced by soldiers with SA 80s or A2 assault rifles, which is normal practice in Britain anyway. That would have deterred the Real IRA or ensured their attack wasn't successful."
Hughes claimed MI5 advice that the guards' weapons be upgraded was ignored. He questioned why the Real IRA gunmen's car wasn't challenged when it parked outside Massereene.
He said the civilian guards should have opened fire on the gunmen. While condemning "the bastards" who killed his nephew, his greatest anger was at Brigadier George Norton, the British army's commanding officer in the North.
Norton has denied security at the base was lax and has defended the guards' failure to fire at the gunmen.
"Brigadier Norton is talking nonsense. If it was Brigadier Norton or the army's top brass at risk in Massereene, the most stringent security would have been in place," Hughes said.
"Mark and Patrick were cannon fodder for the army. Brigadier Norton called them 'magnificent individuals'. Well after they were killed, these 'magnificent individuals' were denied a ramp service on board an RAF aircraft.
"Instead, they were packed into tin boxes, bubble-wrapped and sent home to their parents in the cargo hold of a commercial airline along with the passenger luggage. The Ministry of Defence didn't want to give the impression Britain was still at war in Northern Ireland."
Hughes showed the Sunday Tribune an army letter suspending an internal inquiry into security at Massereene on the grounds that it could prejudice the trial of two men charged with the attack. "I don't accept that. The investigation isn't happening because it would reveal the shambolic security that night," he said.