Security forces lost over 1,000 weapons in 35 years

The Provisional IRA circa 1986.
The Provisional IRA circa 1986.

Old Venezuelan Army weapons and Soviet flamethrowers and rocket launchers were among the weapons successfully recovered by police in Northern Ireland prior to the IRA declaring an end to its armed campaign in 2005 but a Soviet surface-to-air missile that almost downed a military helicopter in 1991 eluded the authorities.

The PSNI refused, however, to provide details of the IRA’s use or otherwise of napalm, improvised detonators and radio controlled improvised explosive devices, claiming to do so could jeopardise the “integrity of police investigations and operations.”

In response to a Freedom of Information request the PSNI did give details of the recovery of an array of weapons up to 2005.

Two firearms of Venezuelan origin are recorded as having been recovered in Northern Ireland between 1970 and 2005, police revealed.

Both weapons were from ex-military stock.

The PSNI also provided details of weapons that potentially correspond with a huge shipment of arms imported from Libya in the mid 1980s.

Two LP 50 Soviet flamethrowers are recorded as having been recovered in Northern Ireland between 1970 and 2005. And 19 RPG 7 launchers and 70 warheads are recorded as having been recovered between 1970 and 2005.

But no Soviet surface-to-air missiles that were also imported from Libya around the same time were ever recovered.

One such SAM 7 missile is recorded as having been fired near Kinawley, Co Fermanagh on July 19, 1991.

The PSNI refused details of the napalm and IEDs stating: “Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing and providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by various groups or individuals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of police investigations and operations in highly sensitive areas.”

such as extremism, crime prevention, public disorder and terrorism prevention.”

The security forces in Northern Ireland lost an arsenal of weapons more than big enough to arm an entire battalion between 1970 and 2005.

1,052 firearms were recorded as being stolen from members of the security force (police, military and prison service), both on and off duty in Northern Ireland, between January 1, 1970 and December 31, 2005.

This included all thefts from security force establishments and thefts from individual members on or off duty.

Hundreds of self-loading rifles were amongst the weapons that disappeared but incredibly over sixty sub-machine guns also became lost property during the Troubles. 361 L1A1 British Army self loading rifles were recorded as being stolen over the thirty-five year period and that 332 of these were recorded as being recovered. Equally, 63 Sterling sub-machine guns were recorded as being stolen between 1970 and 2005.