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Palace Barracks: Explosion at MI5 headquarters and Army base in Northern Ireland caused by device hidden in postal van

Published 14/08/2015

The scene after a vehicle fire at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down. Pic Pacemaker Press
The scene after a vehicle fire at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down. Pic Pacemaker Press
The scene after a vehicle fire at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down, which is under investigation after the blaze spread to other cars and garages. Firefighters attended the scene in the Old Holywood Road area at about 10.30am on Friday. Pic Pacemaker Press
The scene after a vehicle fire at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down, which is under investigation after the blaze spread to other cars and garages. Firefighters attended the scene in the Old Holywood Road area at about 10.30am on Friday. Pic Pacemaker Press

The PSNI has confirmed that small explosion occurred inside the rear of a postal van at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down.

The device caused a fire in the van just before 10:30am on Friday. It is believed the fire spread from the van to cars and nearby garages. There are no reports of any injuries.

Police forensic experts are continuing to examine the remains of the van amidst reports the fire may have been caused by an incendiary device.

Superintendent Karen Baxter said : "Just after 10:35am, we received a report that a postal van was on fire within the Palace complex.

"Our emergency service colleagues in the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service attended and extinguished the blaze however the van was extensively damaged. The flames had also spread to two other vehicles as well as nearby garages.

The postal worker who had been driving the van was not inside when the explosion occurred.

Due to the damage caused by fire and water, the exact nature or make up of the device that caused the explosion has yet to be established, police said.

The statement added: "Although we have no information to suggest there may be other similar packages in the postal system we are working closely with Royal Mail to mitigate any potential risk.

"I would also encourage the wider public to be vigilant. If anyone notices anything suspicious you should contact police immediately on 999."

Soldiers from The Royal Scots Borderers The Royal Regiment of Scotland have been stationed at Palace Barracks since August 2014. Around 1,000 MI5 operatives are employed at Loughside inside the Palace Barracks complex making it by far the largest MI5 base outside London.

MI5 HQ at Loughside, Palace Barracks, Holywood, opened in December 2007. Image: Bing Maps
MI5 HQ at Loughside, Palace Barracks, Holywood, opened in December 2007. Image: Bing Maps

The complex is the main back-up to M15 headquarters in London.

North Down DUP MLA Gordon Dunne expressed his shock following an explosion at Palace Barracks.

He said: "I am shocked at an explosion taking place at Palace Barracks, this is quite alarming especially given the considerable number of people currently stationed within thebarracks.


"I am relieved that nobody was hurt or injured given the potential there was with this explosion. Holywood has a very close relationship with the Army given the close proximity of both Palace and Kinnegar Barracks.

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"I know there is concern locally about this latest incident especially as there was a similar explosion about six or seven years ago which caused considerable disruption locally. I would urge anyone with any information to contact the PSNI immediately."

Ulster Unionist MLA Leslie Cree, who represents North Down, said: "The people responsible have nothing to offer anyone in this society. They dare not face the electorate because they know they face humiliation and rejection.

"Instead of outlining a political programme they would rather plant a mortar device in a graveyard in Strabane, blow up a bin in Londonderry, and today the target is a Post Office van in Holywood. 

"It is hardly a decisive blow which will deliver the united Ireland these people claim to want. The people of Northern Ireland have made great strides in recent years and they want to see a country where violence and the threat of violence, are left in the past for good."

Andrew Muir, from the cross-community Alliance Party, also expressed concern.

He said: "Whilst the full details are still unclear, I am appalled and sickened that any attempt has been made to inflict damage at Palace Barracks.

"Across Northern Ireland people will be sickened by such a blatant attempt to target local military who are welcomed as an integral part of life in Holywood, and we must all unite to move forward in creating a stable and peaceful future."

In May two bombs were found close to an army reserve base in Londonderry in Northern Ireland's North West.

In April 2010 dissident republicans detonated between 40lbs and 50lbs of explosives outside the Palace Barracks base. The bomb was packed into a taxi that had been hijacked in north Belfast. The driver was then ordered to drive the car to the barracks and park it there. An elderly man suffered minor injuries when the device exploded while the area around the barracks was being evacuated.

Following that attack, security chiefs carried out a major security review and found spy cameras planted in the trees.

It is believed Oglaigh na hEireann were using the recordings to target soldiers and build profiles on MI5 agents working at the spy base.

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