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An Ulster British Army HQ is being protected by a 'Dads' Army' of guards in their 70s

We pictured one of the guards this week nursing a powerful Hecklar & Koch machine-gun

An armed gentleman pictured guarding Thiepval Barracks

Hugh Jordan

Many of the 'soldiers' guarding the perimeter of Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn are in their seventies.

We pictured one of them this week nursing a powerful Hecklar & Koch machine-gun - and we discovered that he is a member of the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service.

He's tasked with spotting suspicious characters at the barracks, which has been targeted in the past by the IRA.

In 1996, two bombs that had been planted inside the base killed a soldier and wounded 31 people.

And despite being an ordinary civilian, the guard looks every inch the combat soldier - sporting a tight-fitting navy blue beret complete with military-style cap badge.

Thiepval Barracks

But without doubt it's the skilful way he handles his deadly MP5 machine-gun - seen here casually draped over his right shoulder - which sets him apart and puts cautious visitors on the back foot.

The same Hecklar & Koch machine-gun achieved worldwide fame when it featured in the famous Iranian embassy siege in London 42 years ago.

With the world watching on live TV, SAS troops clutching MP5s abseiled down the walls of the building before launching themselves through plate glass windows, rescuing 19 hostages and killing five terrorists.

Despite the lethal firing power of the MP5 - capable of despatching 800 9mm rounds per minute - it didn't put off the civilian 'squaddie' on duty at Thiepval, who admitted to us he was in his seventies.

"I can fire it OK, although I don't think I'm very good at it," he told the Sunday World when we asked him about the powerful weapon he was holding.

And with regards to whether it was licensed or not, he said: "We have a special licence and the PSNI know all about it.

"I'm 70 years of age now and I only do this part time, but I'm still going strong," he added.

When we asked the MoD if it considered it appropriate that a powerful weapon of war was entrusted to a civilian security guard at Northern Ireland's leading Army base, a spokesman said: "The security protocols for MoD estate in Northern Ireland are under constant revue.

"Security coverage is provided by MoD civilian personnel from the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service (NISGS).

"The provisions under which NISGS personnel can carry firearms is regulated by the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 .

"The Order only applies to Crown servants in limited ways.

"Where it does apply, it does not affect the ability of Crown Servants to possess firearms/ammunition whilst on duty carrying a weapon issued by the Secretary of State for Defence."

Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn, following the detonation of two car bombs on 7 October 1996. One soldier was killed and thirty military and civilian personnel injured - there was no warning.

And the spokesman added: "This provision does not cover the licensing of Personal Protection Weapons (PPW), which are overseen by the Chief Constable."

The Sunday World understands civilian security staff assumed frontline responsibility at British Army barracks in Northern Ireland in 2009.

A terror attack at Massereene Barracks in Antrim in March of that year provided the catalyst for change.

Two soldiers from the Engineers Regiment were shot dead by dissident republican gunmen as they collected pizzas from delivery men, who were also wounded alongside another two soldiers.


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