Ex-Army chief warns more terrorists like Ciaran Maxwell could infiltrate UK forces
The former head of the Government's international counter-terrorism team has warned that the conviction of a soldier for terror offences linked to dissident republicans has exposed a major challenge to the police and armed forces.
Ciaran Maxwell, from Larne, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for supplying bombs to dissidents while serving as a Royal Marine.
Described as a "committed terrorist," the 31-year-old stashed an arsenal of weapons, including anti-personnel mines, mortars, ammunition and 14 pipe bombs, in eight locations across Northern Ireland and England. Four of the pipe bombs were used, and some of the stash could have caused an explosion larger than the 1987 Enniskillen bomb.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who previously led the Cabinet Office's crisis response team, has said he fears more terrorists will infiltrate the police and armed forces.
In an article for The Times newspaper yesterday, he said vetting standards for recruits from Northern Ireland have slipped since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
"After the Agreement, in the era of equal opportunities at any price, obsessive political correctness and a determination to increase recruitment among Northern Irish Catholics, vetting parameters and monitoring procedures changed.
"This made Maxwell's entry and service in the Royal Marines far easier," he commented.
He added that the threat from dissident republicans would rise "significantly" in the coming years, partly due (in retaliation) to the increased influence of the DUP, with further potential for infiltration of the security forces.
Col Kemp went on to say the "understandable drive" to recruit more Muslim officers was offset by "a less understandable concern for ticking the politically correct box over operational effectiveness".
He continued: "Most Muslims who join the armed forces and police undoubtedly do so for good patriotic reasons. But Islamic State is determined to infiltrate the forces and police, and has produced a manual that includes instructions on doing so."
Col Kemp cited Afghanistan as an example, explaining that 152 coalition troops had been killed in 99 "green on blue" attacks when trusted Afghan police and soldiers turned on their colleagues.
He said the issue of infiltration was highly dangerous due to potential access to sensitive intelligence, high ranking politicians, aircraft and nuclear submarines.
In May this year, he also called for the deportation and internment of terror suspects. He argued that non-British citizens should be deported while suspects who are citizens should be jailed without a full trial.