The close-knit Antrim community has been left in shock after the brutal gun attack that left two soldiers dead and four others injured. Lesley-Anne Henry spent yesterday in the town to gauge local opinion following the Real IRA attack
Disbelief, dismay and disgust — heartfelt emotions on messages left at the scene of Saturday’s shooting said it all.
The double murder of two young soldiers and the attempted murder of four others at Massereene Barracks rocked the town of Antrim to its core.
Last night locals, who were still in shock, spoke of revulsion at the gun attack and fear at the bloody reminder of a past they hoped had been left in the behind.
Throughout yesterday, a steady stream of people, including ex-soldiers, community workers, councillors, churchmen and women left floral tributes at the security cordon which had been extended from the barracks’ gate along the Randalstown Road.
One note read: “So sorry, murdered by cowards,” while someone else said: “Our thoughts are with you. Murdered by scumbags.”
“What next? Bombs on trains. Bombs on buses. Where are we? Words cannot express my sorrow and the +sickness I feel. How these people who call themselves human can murder in cold blood innocent people doing a day’s work.”
Another message read: “Sleep tight our young heroes.”
Also among those leaving flowers were a large number of children not old enough to remember, Stephen Restorick, the last soldier to die in Northern Ireland.
One young Dominos workers, who did not want to be identified, said: “I was really shocked and upset last night when we heard the news. The shop had only opened a few months ago and we would deliver to Massereene about eight or nine times on a Saturday night. It is really frightening.”
The teen left a card and flowers which read: “Rest in Peace our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this sad time.”
There was a heavy police presence - with armed officers in bullet proof jackets manning the security cordon and helicopter overhead.
Among the media frenzy that was camped at the police cordon were camera crews from Al Jazeera television and Norwegian newspaper reporters.
Meanwhile community worker Paul McKeown (40) said he hoped the killings would not have a detrimental effect on the good relations within the town.
“It is very sad to see something like this happen. It is a real shock that it has taken place in Antrim. Hopefully they will get the ones that carried it out. This is a very mixed town and it has always been that way. No-one in this community was expecting what happened. The ones that carried it out must be brought to justice.”
Forklift driver Patrick Lavery, (39) from Antrim added: “I just heard about what happened on the news and was totally shocked. I thought we had moved on. Hopefully it won’t destroy the peace process but only time will tell.
“I have a two-year-old daughter and I don’t want her growing up in the same environment that I grew up in - one side hating the other. People seemed to have been getting on with each other really well and hopefully this attack will not put that in jeopardy.”
Meanwhile Tom McAleese (35) travelled from Magherafelt to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.
He said: “I think it is shocking. It’s a real disgrace and I just felt saddened by it. I felt saddened and I just felt that I had to do something to recognise them.”