Wilson says Republicans have stepped up efforts to recruit local youths
East Antrim DUP representative Sammy Wilson spoke out after police uncovered a “significant terrorist hide” containing bomb making components and explosives at Carnfunnock Country Park.
The haul was discovered after a member of the public reported a suspicious object to police on Saturday March 5.
Police found a number of small plastic barrels buried in a wooded area 20 metres from the car park containing “a significant amount of bomb-making components including partially-constructed devices and a small quantity of explosives.”
Mr Wilson believes the find indicates an escalation of terrorist activity as the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising approaches.
“This doesn’t surprise me as these people will use anywhere to hide their ammunition and bombs,” he said.
“Carnfunnock was ideal as it was an easy-to-access forested area where someone going in wouldn’t be unusual. Someone could have lost their lives, it could have been a child who found that device.
“We don’t know if these materials were intended to be used locally but there are plenty of targets with policemen and prison officers in the local area. I have no doubt that this was the work of dissident Republicans.”
Mr Wilson said community representatives had recently informed him that dissident Republicans were attempting to recruit more young people in Larne.
“People from the Nationalist community don’t want to have anything to do with these people,” he continued.
“There have been attempts to recruit people to carry or be a messenger of death, especially amongst young people who are not known to police. In their warped minds they see killing someone as being a way of celebrating the 1916 Rising. These materials were half ready so I have no doubt they were going to be used in the near future to kill.”
Mr Wilson called on the public to remain vigilant, and to report suspicious activity to the police.
Other politicians joined Mr Wilson in condemnation of the discovery of bomb-making matrial at Carnfunnock Country Park which they said could have claimed a life.
Justice Minister David Ford said: “Those responsible for leaving these munitions have no regard for human life and are motivated by a need to create fear and disruption in our community. Thankfully, due to the swift actions of the public and the professionalism and expertise of security forces, a potentially serious incident has been averted. I commend all involved for their vigilance.”
East Antrim MLA and Justice Committee Chair Alastair Ross said the incident “clearly demonstrates the total disregard for innocent life that some groups in Northern Ireland hold.”
“I would commend the PSNI for professionally dealing with what could have been an incredibly dangerous situation which could have resulted in casualties,” he added.
DUP MLA Gordon Lyons commented: “It is utterly appalling that some people would have such disregard for the lives of other human beings. I am pleased that this has been discovered and taken out of the hands of those who would seek to maim, destroy and kill. My hope is that those responsible will be found and held accountable.”
UUP MLA Roy Beggs stated: “Those who placed this cache of explosives and bomb making equipment have endangered children and the general public. We must thank our police service and bomb disposal experts who safely removed these devices and made the park safe. With the community united against the men of violence we can prevent them trying to take us back to the past.”
Coast Road DUP Councillor Angela Smyth said: ‘The vast majority of people in the local community will have been utterly appalled at this discovery. I urge the local community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to the PSNI’.
A council spokesperson said access to Carnfunnock Country Park had been “severely restricted” from 5pm on Saturday March 5 until 3.45pm the next day. “The materials were discovered in an area well away from the park’s entrance and from the main public pathways,” he said.
“While no vehicle access was allowed, only the upper and lower car parks, alongside the walled garden were cordoned off during the alert.
“The park was not closed at any stage and indeed, the driving range, adventure playground and Parklands Café were open as normal for Mothers’ Day, with access pedestrianised during the incident. The Park has since resumed normal operations.”