Army guilty of extraordinary lapse

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The Independent Online
Even though security has not been stepped up to levels in place before the IRA's August 1994 cessation of violence, yesterday's breach of security ranks alongside the most remarkable seen during the Troubles.

The Army's headquarters is such an obvious prestige target and is apparently so heavily guarded that even veteran observers could not recall when republicans last made a serious effort to attack it. It has been generally presumed to be immune from assault. Even after the event, observers were unable to work out how two large car-bombs could have been taken into the heart of what is regarded as one of the most secure areas of Northern Ireland.

Lisburn is a largely Protestant town, 10 miles from the centre of Belfast. It has for decades been a garrison town - the base taking its name, Thiepval, from a First World War battle in which many Irishmen died. The base contains the home of the Army's General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland, and officers dealing with matters such as intelligence and administration.

Those entering the base must pass through a formidable system of electrically operated barricades. Soldiers check vehicles entering and leaving; drivers who cannot produce special identification cards report to a roadside office. Those without identification are generally required to have an escort while inside the base. Security cameras are in operation. The main entrance is often busy, for the camp is huge and is visited every day by hundreds of vehicles, military and civilian. As well as hundreds of soldiers and their families who live on the base, there is a constant flow of visitors from other units and from civilians working there.

That republicans got two car-bombs past security means those responsible were almost certainly regular visitors. Those entering the base are routinely filmed, which means the drivers of the cars used in the attack can presumably be traced.