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Ex-Para 'targeted by dissidents' in plea for gun back

A former member of the Parachute Regiment, whose details were stolen during the infamous Castlereagh break-in, has told how his life is at risk of terrorist attack because the PSNI will not return his gun.

The former soldier, who did several tours of duty in Northern Ireland and now lives in the province, said he believes he is a target for dissident republicans after discovering bullets at the front of his Co Antrim home on two recent occasions.

Following the discovery he requested the return of his personal protection weapon but was turned down by the PSNI because he has been diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) disorder. He said he believes that as dissident republicans step up their campaign of terror former members of the security services are at serious risk and the threat against them is not being taken seriously enough.

A key issue for the DUP before any agreement is reached on the devolution of policing and justice is that former members of the security services have access to personal protection weapons if they want them.

First Minister Peter Robinson has said it was “intolerable” lives were “being put at risk over a failure to renew or grant certificates” for the weapons.

The soldier, who served 18 years in the Army and also carried out plain-clothed work here for special forces, handed back his 9mm handgun in 2001 following the Good Friday Agreement.

However, he was one of a number of former members of the Parachute Regiment re-issued with personal protection weapons amid concern that the Provisional IRA was amassing intelligence on former paratroopers through accidental leaks from the Bloody Sunday inquiry and the Castlereagh break-in.

The weapon was taken back from the soldier four years ago when he was banned from driving for a motoring offence.

He re-applied for it earlier this year when he discovered three bullets at his front door.

However, he was turned down on the grounds that he was not under “immediate” threat and was suffering from PTS. “Northern Ireland is on red alert. Over the last four months I have had bullets on my front door on two occasions. I thought ‘this is getting a bit hairy’. I have two daughters, two granddaughters and a wife to look after so I applied for a personal protection weapon again but they turned me down. They said I was not under immediate threat. How do you define a threat to someone’s life if that is not a threat?” he said.

“They also said because I have PTS they are not going to give me a firearm. Are they saying because I have PTS they don’t think it would be safe enough to carry one when I have been carrying one all my life? PTS is not a mental illness.”

The soldier said police offered to increase patrols around his house and to send a constable out to advise him on personal safety.

“What is he going to tell me that I don’t do automatically? It has been a part of my life and has been for years. I got seven grand of security measures put into my house by the Army the first time around but that doesn’t reassure me now.

“I done 18 years and what have they given me? I am very annoyed at the way they are treating us. We are not being looked after. I am on edge all the time. I have had to go back to counselling.”

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